Skip to main content

Full text of "Escaped!"

See other formats


Adventures In 
Oerman Captivity 



Shelf ^H- <>*^X^»2 

Numbcp - 

Date . ..(.t^^.'L 


Adventures in 
German Captivity 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2008 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 


Adventures in 
German Captivity 



William Blackwood and Sons 

Edinburgh and London 


ALL Kn;nrs Khsi-.R^En 




'All these designs are but to prove 
Ourselves more worthy of your love. 

—Charles Sackville, Earl 
OF Dorset, 1665. 












































Adventures in German Captivity. 



** Impossible ! " I exclaimed. 

My friend shrugged his shoulders. 

" Read for yourself," he replied, and handed me 
a copy of the Frankfurter Zeitimg of August 5, 
1914. Yes, it was true, Great Britain had declared 
war on Germany. 

The news came as an overwhelming surprise. I 
had been among the many who thought that human 
foresight in the twentieth century would find some 
way of settling international disputes other than 
by the arbitrament of the hellish devices of modern 
warfare. I was wrong. Racial rivalries had in- 
terested mc, but I did not sec in them the germs 



of a world war. The Pan-German amused me, 
the Chauvinist exasperated me, and the Jingo 
bored me ; but I took none of them seriously. 

Then came war. 

When I learned that Austria-Hungary and Servia, 
and then Germany, Russia, and France, were in- 
volved, I became very much alive to the terrible 
significance of the preparations I saw going on 
around me, but I was merely an interested spec- 
tator, grateful in a sense to fate that I had the 
privilege of witnessing the beginnings of war. The 
occasion was historic. The entry of my own 
country into the war, however, changed the aspect 
of everything. The word of an ambassador trans- 
formed me from an interested neutral observer into 
an alien enemy. No longer could I look on at 
events from my detached point of view. I was a 
participator. Things were to happen which would 
change the face of Europe, and, incidentally, jerk 
my insignificant self out of the monotony of my 
old life and plunge me into a whirl of queer and 
bewildering adventure. 

On the outbreak of war I saw scenes of wild 
enthusiasm in Frankfort city. The big caf^s 
which I visited in turn were crowded ; orchestras 
played patriotic songs until the early hours of the 
morning, and noisy crowds of beer-drinkers joined 


in singing them. One evening a Frenchman, more 
bold than wise, stood up in a caf6 and shouted 
" Vive la France ! A has I'Allemagne ! " and then, 
rushing from the caf^, ran down the Kaiser Strasse 
pursued by an angry mob. He escaped from his 
pursuers by darting into a cinema theatre at one 
entrance and out at the other. The mob, baffled 
in their pursuit, caught sight of the film placard 
for the previous week, which showed a picture of 
Bonaparte. That was sufficient. In ten minutes 
they had smashed every window and every article 
of furniture in the place. It is only fair to add 
that the police took every precaution against a 
recurrence of such outrages. 

In a night every foreign name on shop signs 
and hotels was either removed or obliterated and 
German names substituted. I heard of a German 
being flung from a tram-car because he had said 
" Pardon ! " instead of " Verzeihcn ! " after treading 
on some one's foot, but I cannot vouch for the 
accuracy of the story. 

There was a great hue-and-cry or Russian, 
French, and Servian spies, with which Germany 
was said to be overrun. On one occasion I saw a 
poor Russian being dragged to the police station, 
his head bleeding profusely, surrounded by a mob 
of people crying " Russischer Spion ! " and striking 


at him with fists, umbrellas, and sticks. I was 
watching the scene from the front of a tram-car, and 
the driver, ignorant of the fact that I was an 
Englishman, turning to me, said — 

** There are too many of these d — d foreigners 
about. I've been watching that old fellow in the 
car for some time and I don't like the looks of him. 
I've half a mind to denounce him." 

I agreed, of course, that there were far too many 
foreigners about, and could hardly repress a smile 
when I saw that the man to whom he was referring 
was a much-respected German ptofessor at the 
University of Frankfort ! 

At Neuss, near Diisseldorf, a German flying- 
machine was brought down by German anti-aircraft 
guns, two German officers being killed. It is to 
be feared, too, that many innocent people were 
shot as suspected spies in the early days of war. 

The day before the entry of Great Britain into 
the war, I was about to leave Frankfort station 
when I found to my consternation that a special 
barrier had been erected during the night, and 
police and military officials were demanding legiti- 
mation papers from all who passed through into 
the town. When asked to show mine I could pro- 
duce none. Just as I was about to be handed over 
to a German corporal and a couple of soldiers, a 


German friend appeared, coming from the train, 
made the necessary declaration for me, and got me 
through. Once outside, it occurred to me to search 
my pockets in order to see if I was carrying any- 
thing which might possibly have helped me. To 
my horror the first paper I pulled out was a busi- 
ness document typed in Russian characters — abso- 
lutely harmless, it is true, but a document which 
might have been fraught with extremely unpleasant 
consequences had I been dragged before a stupid 
official in those days of spy fever. 

Strange stories were abroad, too, at that time of 
French motor-cars on their way through Germany 
to Russia, laden with fabulous millions of francs in 
gold. I heard over and over again of army officers 
of high rank who were stopped a dozen times by 
zealous villagers on a motor-car journey of twenty 
miles. Long after midnight one night, I was 
aroused from sleep by the sound of the village fire- 
horn, and shortly afterwards a village youth rang 
the house-bell and shouted excitedly to my landlord 
that his help was wanted to waylay a number of 
French motor-cars laden with gold for Russia, 
which were expected to pass through our village on 
their way. The news was amtlich (official), he said-. 
My landlord hurriedly dressed, and in spite of my 
ridicule sallied forth to help. 


" If the news is amtlich," he said with solemn 
emphasis, " it must be true," which speaks 
volumes for the belief of the average German 
in the infallibility of anything in uniform. The 
villagers laid huge tree-trunks as pitfalls across 
the roads leading to the village, concealed them- 
selves in ambush near them, armed for the most 
part with sporting rifles, and waited; but no cars 
came, and they crept to bed an hour or two later, 
cold, sleepy, and crestfallen. 

The mobilisation of troops seemed to take place 
with marvellous precision and smoothness. Every- 
thing spoke of a people prepared in the fullest sense 
of the word for war. Armed guards were immedi- 
ately placed on bridges, railway stations, and other 
places of importance, and one saw for the first time 
the field-grey uniform which has since become 
famous. The men and officers seemed remark- 
ably fit. 

My home was in a little village situated between 
Frankfort-on-Maine and Darmstadt, and day after 
day I saw an apparently endless procession of 
troop trains carrying men, guns, horses, and stores 
to the south and west. *' Die Wacht am Rhein,^^ 
" Ich haf einen Kamerade,^^ and " Deutschland iiber 
alleSy^ sung by sonorous voices as the trains went 
west, were heard night and day until one grew weary 


of the sound of them. There was a marked 
absence of songs of the Hghter sort. All the troop 
trains I saw were labelled '' Nach Paris!" " Nach 
Petersburg !" or ** Nach London!" Many of them 
were decorated with clever chalk drawings and 
adorned from end to end with foliage cut from the 
trees on the railway side. 

There seemed to be no shadow of doubt in the 
mind of any ordinary German I met in those days 
that the German people were setting out upon a 
war of defence. The Germans were an easy people 
to trick. Amazingly ignorant as their rulers may 
be of the psychology of other nations, they have 
made few mistakes in their judgment of their own 
people. As far as I could learn, the average German 
firmly believed that the war had been thrust upon 
Germany by the ruthless despotism of Russia and 
by the mad chauvinism of France. Later on all 
this was forgotten, and England became and 
remained the arch-enemy who, by her devilish 
diplomacy, had drawn France and Russia into her 
net and cleverly tricked them into war with Ger- 
many for her own base ends. King Edward was 
dragged from his tomb and became the butt of every 
cartoonist who thought he could wield a pencil. 
He became, for the German mind, the embodi- 
ment of everything that was pernicious in English 


foreign policy. His was the masterly intelligence 
which had planned and brought about the political 
isolation of Germany, and heaven itself was invaded 
in order that the German might smile when he saw 
how unhappy the illustrious monarch felt, even in 
heaven, at the spectacle of all the sorrow and 
suffering he had brought upon Europe. The im- 
probability of meeting naughty kings in heaven 
never seems to have occurred to the German mind. 
Sir Edward Grey achieved a like notoriety. 

While being shaved in a small barber's shop in 
Frankfort the morning after the British declaration 
of war, a labourer sitting next to me said to the 
barber — 

" You've heard, I suppose, of the English 
declaration of war ? " 

" Yes," replied the barber. 

"1st das nicht gemein?" ("Isn't it dirty?") was 
the labourer's comment. Such seemed to be the 
general opinion. It was gemein. We had played 
Germany a dirty trick, upset calculations, and 
spoiled her game. I refrained from comment lest'^ 
the razor should slip. It was not a suitable moment, 
I felt, for heroics. 

At that time, even the most respectable German 
newspapers were full of scurrilous abuse of the 
English people, the English army, the English 


national character, and English policy. We had 
become a decadent race — decadent in physique, 
mentality, and morals. As soon, however, as the 
Germans had recovered from their first over- 
whelming surprise, they discovered that the ruling 
hand of the Almighty was behind it all, that Great 
Britain had given Germany a glorious opportunity. 
The disruption of the British Empire would natur- 
ally follow the entry of Great Britain into the war. 
India would rise and shake off the hated English 
yoke. Ireland would declare her independence, 
and the self-governing colonies would, one by one, 
claim complete autonomy. "The very foxes run- 
ning along our walls were to bring them down," 
and on the ruins of the once glorious British 
Empire a new empire was to rise — the German 
World Empire, bestowing the blessings of its 
Kultur on the benighted peoples of the earth. If 
my readers think that this savours of picturesque 
exaggeration, I recommend them to turn to Ger- 
man newspapers and pamphlets published during 
the first few months of war. It would be interest- 
ing to speculate how much blood and tears and 
treasure Europe might have been spared, had the 
German people only been gifted with a finer sense 
of humour. 

English people arc at a loss to understand how 

10 • ESCAPED! 

it came to pass that the Social Democratic Party 
in Germany failed at the last moment to make a 
solid stand against war. We shall not understand 
all until the German press is unmuzzled after the 
war, though there are a few incidents leading up to 
war to which insufficient attention has been paid 
in this country. In the first place, it must be 
borne in mind that the German people, including 
the German Socialists, were tricked with consum- 
mate skill into the belief that the war which 
menaced them was to be, in the fullest sense of 
the word, a war of defence and not of aggression. 
The leaders of the Social Democratic Party in the 
Reichstag ought to have known better. Some did 
not know, and others who knew or suspected the 
truth were afraid to take a firm stand against 
the overwhelming forces which confronted them. 
There were reports of much more than a vague 
character, that the Government had decided on 
the immediate arrest of all the Socialist members 
of the Reichstag who showed signs of the least 
hostility to the Government policy, and, traitors 
to the revolutionary principles they avowed, the 
greater part of them followed the Government lead. 
A few courageous ones — now members of the 
Arbeitergemcinschaft (the Minority Socialists) spoke 
out, and, one by one, found their way for the most 


part to prison. I met many of them there in the 
summer of 1915. They were, however, powerless 
to stem the tide of fanatic patriotism which swept 
across Germany and carried everything before it. 
They lacked a great leader of the calibre of Bebel 
or Singer. Harassed, misunderstood, and vilified, 
constantly faced with the prospect of imprisonment 
at any moment, these brave men still carry on 
their work of enlightenment. They are men of 
noble ideals and indomitable purpose, and only 
those who have themselves felt the Prussian iron 
heel can measure the praise which is their due. 
They are constantly in opposition in the Reichstag, 
though we seldom learn what they have said, and, 
in some mysterious way, leaflets which have 7iot 
been sanctioned by the Imperial Censor find their 
way into the hands of thousands of Germans at 
home and at the front. These leaflets tell the 
truth, and though they will not end the war, they 
"do their bit." 

It is known to very few in Germany, though 
even during the war courageous publicists, like 
Theodore Wolff of the Berliner Tageblatt, have re- 
ferred to the matter in carefully veiled language, 
that the British Government in 1914 had come 
to terms with the German Government regarding 
many important questions of colonial policy. 


Concessions of an important nature, conceived in 
a generous spirit of conciliation, had been made by 
the British Government, and the draft treaty had 
received the assent of both parties to it. I learned, 
while in Germany, that the fear of this treaty 
heralding a new spirit in Anglo-German foreign 
policy brought matters to a head, and impelled 
the Pan-German leaders to decide upon immediate 
war.^ While the crowned heads of those countries 
likely to be involved in war were exchanging 
telegrams, a special edition of a semi - official 
Berlin newspaper, the Lokal Anzeiger, appeared, 
and *was sold in the streets of Berlin on July 28. 
The newspaper stated that the Kaiser had signed 
the order for the mobilisation of two army corps 
against Russia. At that time the Russian armies 
had been mobilised only against Austria-Hungary. 
The issue was suppressed a few hours later, a few 
subordinate officials were, I believe, cashiered, and 
an official dementi was published — but not before 
the special edition had done its work. People, 
whom I am justified in regarding as men speaking 
with authority, held the view that the Kaiser had 
actually signed the mobilisation order and then 

^ This has since been substantially confirmed by the recent reve- 
lations of Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador in London 
prior to the outbreak of war. 


cancelled it. The leaders of the war party secured 
publication of the statement in the Lokal Anzeiger, 
a few thousand read it, including the Russian 
Ambassador in Berlin, the Russian Government 
learned of it, and their reply was the mobilisation 
of Russian troops on the German frontier. The 
sinister scheme had done its work. Few people in 
Germany knew what had taken place. They found 
themselves face to face with a fait accompli. 
"What! the Cossack hordes in our homes? 
Never ! " That was the cry which united 

If there were any Germans in those days who 
were ashamed of the violation of the neutrality of 
Belgium, I never met them. Every one seemed to 
look upon it as quite the right thing to do. Of 
course, we heard nothing of the atrocities per- 
petrated by German troops in Belgium. On the 
other hand, we heard very much indeed of un- 
speakable barbarities practised by Belgian civilians 
on the German troops. We heard nothing of 
retreats or of defeats ; the newspapers reported 
only victories. It was months before one learned 
of the Battle of the Marne, and one had to learn 
of the invasion of Eastern Prussia by the Russian 
armies, through Hindenburg's victories at Tannen- 
berg and the Masurian Lakes. If Hindenburg had 


had to drive the Russians out of Germany, they 
must have forced a way into Germany for such 
a necessity to arise. 

Apparently no one dreamed that the war could 
possibly last longer than six months. Lord 
Kitchener's view, that the war would last at least 
three years, was laughed to scorn. ''Kitchener 
propose; les Allemands disposent!" Many Germans 
to whom I spoke on my last escape from Germany 
had moved to the other extreme, and believed that 
the war would never end. This miscalculation of 
the probable duration of the war is one of the 
biggest mistakes Germany made. 

During the first few days of mobilisation no 
trains were available for those who wished to 
leave Germany. On the 4th and 5th of August 
there were no long - distance trains, other than 
troop trains, leaving Frankfort-on-Maine. On the 
evening of the 6th I left by a train which I hoped 
would carry me through to Holland, my idea being 
to get back to England as quickly as possible and 
volunteer. It took me three years and four months 
to get there. In Niederlahnstein, a small station 
not very far from Cologne, we were ordered to 
leave the train, and about a hundred and fifty 
English people — men, women, boys, girls, and 


babies in arms — were crowded into a bare waiting- 
room, and kept there under guard until about ten 
o'clock the following morning, when we were again 
entrained for Cologne. At Cologne-Kalk we were 
ordered to leave the train, our passports were care- 
fully examined, and then, escorted by a strong 
guard of German soldiers with fixed bayonets, we 
marched into the centre of the city. Before we 
were allowed to cross the Hohenzollern Bridge 
over the Rhine, our personal effects were carefully 
searched by German soldiers. Our guards then 
left us standing for several hours in drizzling rain, 
women and children along with the rest, in front 
of the railway station in Cologne. One or two 
Germans came up while we were standing there, 
and expressed regret that we were in so unfortunate 
a situation. In answer to an inquiry as to how 
long we should be kept waiting, some of us were 
informed — 

" You have come into a fortress, and now that 
you are in a fortress you will not be allowed to 
leave ! " 

Late in the afternoon hotels were assigned to 
us, and after a stay of about five days, Mr Gardner 
and Mr Thclwall, the British Vice-Consul and 
junior Vice-Consul in F"rankfort-on- Maine, suc- 
ceeded in inducing the police and military auth- 


orities to permit us to continue our journey to 

Early one morning we embarked on a Rhine 
steamer which was to carry us all to Rotterdam. 
We were in high spirits. Each passenger was 
furnished with a special permit, authorising him 
to travel through to Rotterdam, stamped and 
signed by the governor of the fortress and the 
president of police. In addition, two detectives 
had been placed in charge of us to help us 
through any difficulties on the way. What could 
go wrong ? 

We were stopped for examination at Diisseldorf, 
at Duisburg we were sent back to Diisseldorf for 
re-examination ; we were stopped again at Crefeld, 
and finally at Wesel. The repeated examinations 
were irksome, we thought ; but then it was war- 
time, and they were only formalities, with no real 
significance after all. It was about four in the 
afternoon when we arrived at Wesel, and more 
than one party of men and women — for the boat 
was crowded — had ordered wine to drink to the 
land whose soil we were so eager to tread. The 
Dutch frontier was very near. Surely nothing 
could go wrong. 

German officers came on board. There was a 
long parley between the officers, the detectives, 


and our consuls. Then the men were separated 
from the women, and each man had to pass in 
front of an officer, produce his papers, and state 
his age. Men between the ages of seventeen and 
forty-five were sent on land and placed under mili- 
tary guard. Ten minutes later we were allowed 
to return on board for our hand-luggage and Jay 
"Good-bye!" to our relatives and friends, and 
were told that we were to be kept as hostages 
for the German civilians detained in England. 

" Not a hair of their heads will be injured," » 
said the German captain who was responsible for 
our arrest. " The ladies may rest assured that 
their men will be treated in accordance with the 
best traditions of German hospitality. It is only 
a question of a few days' detention — a fortnight 
or three weeks at the most — and then they will 
be exchanged." 

It was harrowing to witness the partings that 
took place. Mothers were separated from their 
sons, wives from their husbands, children from 
their fathers, and girls from their lovers. One 
young Englishman, with whom I was long in cap- 
tivity, was spending his honeymoon in Germany 
when war broke out, and we were arrested together 
in Wesel. He has not seen his young wife since. 
An aristocratic Russian lady, the sister of a Rus- 



sian prince, who was with us, threw herself pros- 
trate at the feet of the German officer who arrested 
us, and, sobbing, implored him to let her brother 
go free. We were drawn up four deep on land, 
under guard, the steamer cast off from the quay, 
turned slowly round, and steamed on out of sight to 
the land which was the object of our yearning, to 
the liberty from which the mailed fist held us back. 

On our way to the citadel of the fortress, which 
was our first objective, we raised smiles from some- 
where, to cheer those whose lot was harder than 
our own, and not many minutes had passed before 
we were laughing and joking at the queer situation 
in which we found ourselves. 

Around the quadrangle to which we were taken, 
in the citadel itself, were the heavily - barred 
windows of cells occupied by German military 
prisoners. These appeared at the windows, when 
the backs of the officers were turned, and made 
desperate efforts to cheer us up by sticking out 
tongues and drawing a forefinger across their 
throats as an earnest of what was to come. 

Late that night the sixty of us were crowded 
into third-class railway carriages at the station, a 
sentry with fixed bayonet was placed in each com- 
partment, and we began a miserable fourteen-hour 
journey to the military camp — Sennelager in West- 


phalia. Each compartment was packed full, and, 
in spite of the hot weather which prevailed in 
early August 1914, we were not allowed to open 
the windows. We had nothing to complain of 
as regards brutal treatment on the way. Our 
guard — I speak of my own compartment — was a 
genial fellow, and assured us that, if we were going 
to prison, it was not so bad after all : he had just 
done two years of it himself! When we were not 
trying to snatch a few moments' sleep, we were 
singing English songs at the top of our voices, to 
the huge delight of our jail-bird guard. 




Sennelager (Senne Camp), when we arrived there 
in August, was not unlike any other military camp 
except for the presence of several thousand Belgian, 
and a few French, prisoners of war. There were 
very few German soldiers, due, probably, to the fact 
that they had almost all been sent off to the front. 
Close to where we were kept standing for several 
hours after our arrival was a most impressive 
group of French soldier prisoners. They lay there 
in those picturesque attitudes which a Frenchman 
naturally assumes, whatever his posture, clad in 
their red breeches and blue overcoats, guarded by 
tall, stalwart Westphalian soldiers. I am haunted 
still by the feeling of sadness which came over me 
at the sight of the luckless few, captured so early in 
the war, with the certainty of long captivity before 
them. We had no opportunity of speaking to them 
at the time. 


For a while it was apparent that the camp 
authorities had received no intimation of our 
probable arrival, and after dicussing the matter 
with a few friends I decided to take advantage of 
the situation and endeavour to procure our release. 
At the request of my friends, I went up to the 
General in charge of the camp, who had come 
round on a visit of inspection, and requested per- 
mission to lay our case before him. Permission 
was readily granted, and I informed him that, as 
far as we could see, our presence in the camp was 
due to some official error, that we had been fur- 
nished in Cologne with a safe-conduct, signed by 
the highest military and police authorities there, 
authorising us to travel by Rhine steamer to 
Rotterdam ; we were all civilians, many of us were 
domiciled in the country prior to the outbreak of 
war, and the rest were tourists. As far as we could 
learn, some misunderstanding had arisen, and we 
had been arrested the previous day at Wesel ; could 
he procure our speedy release ? While I was 
trying to convince him that we were at a loss to 
understand why we had been arrested at all, one of 
my friends, with more zeal than tact, suggested to 
the General that it was doubtless because we were 
all of military age! Just before my friend made 
this unfortunate remark, the General, evidently 


puzzled, murmured something about sending a 
commission to Paderborn, the nearest town, in 
order to inquire into the matter. ' I had only very 
slender hope of something useful being accom- 
plished, but I thought it wise, seeing that our 
liberty was at stake, to leave no stone unturned. 
The " bluff" failed. The interview served one use- 
ful purpose, however. It called attention to our 
case, and it became no longer possible to treat us 
as an entirely negligible element in the camp. 

Later in the day we were quartered in barracks. 
From the litter of rubbish in them, we judged that 
German soldiers had probably left th» barracks 
that day, and it was not long before we set to work 
with water and scrubbing - brushes to make our 
new quarters habitable. That day, the men got 
together and did me the honour of choosing me 
as their representative or spokesman. My stay 
in Sennelager was not a long one, but while I was 
there the men gave me a splendid backing in all 
that I attempted to accomplish on their behalf. 
They numbered sixty when we arrived, but at the 
end of the first week twenty other unfortunates 
were sent to join us. All sorts and conditions of 
men were to be found in our midst. We had a 
cousin of an English peer, whose name would be 
quite familiar to all if I were to mention it. He 


was taking a cure at Homburg when the war broke 
out. A Manchester city councillor, well known in 
the North of England, was another. He had been 
spending a holiday listening to the Wagner music 
at Bayreuth, and though well above military age 
had been separated from his wife and family at the 
frontier, simply because a German officer, who 
caught sight of him at the last moment, thought 
he " looked fresh and fit enough ! " We had also 
a Russian prince, who was subsequently released 
through the intercession of the Queen of Holland. 
Others were stable-boys, jockeys, tourists (who 
are still " holidaying " in Ruhleben Camp), school- 
boys, a negro whom we straightaway dubbed 
" Snowball," two Japs, one of whom was a 
university professor, and a frail, old Japanese 
conjurer and juggler. 

Thinking that class distinctions of any kind 
would be regrettable in so small a body of unfor- 
tunates, I instituted a democratic regime which 
proved to be quite a success. We took orderly 

duty in turns. His Highness Prince L swept 

out the barracks and fetched water Trom the pump, 
and did it remarkably well. There was a spirit 
of good-fellowship among us, in spite of occasional 
fits of depression, which went far to make our life 
as enjoyable as such a life ever could be. 


During the first few days we were not compelled 
to do any definite work. One day the staff doctor 
asked for volunteers to clean one of the camp 
hospitals, 'and we all turned out and worked until 
our hands were blistered. The following day he 
sent a corporal to order us to go again. I remon- 
strated, pointing out that if the staff doctor cared 
to ask again for volunteers, volunteers would cheer- 
fully go ; an order, however, was a different matter. 
The corporal came back later and asked for 

The camp was hopelessly disorganised at first, 
and insufficiently manned. We had to wait five 
days, for example, before we received blankets ; but 
this constituted no great hardship, as the nights 
were warm. The food was of very poor quality — 
inexcusable in those days when Germany had an 
abundant supply of foodstuffs — but we were able 
to supplement camp fare by odds and ends which 
we could purchase at the canteen. 

The morning of the third day I was called out 
of the barrack to speak to the Adjutant — a captain 
who, next to the General, was responsible for the 
administration of the camp. I found him seated 
on his horse in front of the entrance to our barrack. 
The open square was filled with a big crowd of 
Belgian and French military prisoners, about a 


hundred Russian Poles, and the English civilians. 
German soldiers were sprinkled here and there 
among the crowd. The Adjutant then began a 
speech, in which he stated that, from the following 
morning onwards, the prisoners of war in the camp 
would rise at six o'clock, appear on parade at 
seven, and work until noon. There would be a 
short pause for lunch, after which work would be 
resumed until 5 p.m. There would be three roll- 
calls a day — at seven, half-past one, and half-past 
five. When he paused, I said — 

" I take it, sir, that this has no reference to the 
English civilians." 

" What I have said applies to all," he answered, 
with a wave of the hand. 

" Then, in the name of the English civilians, I 
lodge an emphatic protest." 

" On what grounds ? " 

" We were informed by the German officer who 
was responsible for our arrest at Wesel that we 
should be treated in accordance with the best 
traditions of German hospitality, and such will 
certainly not be the case if you insist on our work- 
ing in this camp." 

He then lost command of his temper, rose in 
his stirrups, and delivered a fiery speech to all 
and sundry in a hoarse loud voice, dwelling 


mainly on the atrocities perpetrated on German 
women and children in dem Auslande (in foreign 

" Excuse me, Adjutant," I said, " but what you 
say is not true of England." 

This occasioned a fresh outburst, and a German 
orderly standing by came under the horse's head 
and, clenching his fist, muttered — 

" Keep your mouth shut or I'll knock you down," 
so I kept my mouth shut. 

The Adjutant ended his speech by shouting 
passionately — 

** 1st das nicht wahr, Soldaten ? " (" Is that not true, 
soldiers ? ") 

" Hurra ! Hurra ! Hurra ! " shouted the soldiers, 
*and the Adjutant rode away. In those days we 
were not yet cowed by discipline and bullying. 
The protest served a useful purpose, in that we 
were given no very arduous work to perform, 
beyond the erection of a barbed-wire fence around 
certain portions of the camp towards the end of 
the first fortnight. One or two men helped the 
camp doctor, others were sent to work in the 
garden, while three engineers were told off to repair 
an old traction-engine. The day after the incident 
related above, the Adjutant rode up to where we 
were working, and explained to me in quite a 


friendly manner, that it was the intention of the 
authorities simply to give us work which would 
keep us out of mischief. 

The fourth or fifth day after our arrival, I was 
given an opportunity of speaking to General von 
Bissing (later Governor-General of Belgium), who 
was, at the time, the General at the head of the 
army corps whose headquarters were in Munster, 
Westphalia. Our camp came under his control, 
and when I saw him he was passing through the 
camp, accompanied by his staff, on a visit of inspec- 
tion. I remember him as an exceedingly hand- 
some, soldierly - looking officer, with that stiffness 
and haughtiness of bearing which we have come to 
regard as peculiarly Prussian. I argued the case 
for the release of the English civilians, and his 
answer was — 

" You have only your own Government to blame. 
We did not want war with England. It was Eng- 
land who wanted war with us." 

Finally, he consented to consider petitions for 
the release from camp of men who had been domi- 
ciled in Germany prior to the outbreak of war. 

For a number of days I had to appear regularly 
before the General in command of the camp, along 
with the French and Belgian non-commissioned 
officers, to receive orders for the following day. A 


smart little Belgian sergeant acted as interpreter 
for his comrades. One day the General bellowed 
at him from his horse — 

** We are going to try and make soldiers of your 
men. They are not soldiers yet." 

The Belgian sergeant clicked his heels together, 
saluted, and, looking the General square in the 
eyes, retorted — 

**Z« spat, Herr General! " (" Too late, General.") 

Bullying was tried on several occasions by in- 
dividual German soldiers, but I never allowed a 
single occasion to pass without reporting it, usually 
with satisfactory results. On parade, the English- 
men drew up in soldierly fashion, four deep, and 
marched well. There were some well-built men 
among us, and I more than once saw a look of 
admiration in the eyes of the officers who in- 
spected us. 

A Major Bach, a Prussian officer of the harshest 
type, became camp commander at the end of the 
first week. On his first appearance he condemned 
one of our men to three days' cells for daring to 
address him on parade, but he became more 
reasonable towards the end of the second week, 
and I had nothing to complain of in my dealings 
with him. I must admit, however, that I did not 
see him at his worst, and if he is responsible for 


the abominable treatment meted out to the civilian 
and military prisoners later on, he has very much 
to answer for, I left at the end of a two weeks' 
stay in Sennelager, just before the first batches of 
British soldiers arrived, and am consequently un- 
able to write with authority on what took place 
after that date. Much was related to me by 
friends of mine who were released later, and I 
was alternately moved to tears and fury at what 
I heard. As this, however, is only a record of 
experiences through which I myself passed, I leave 
it to others who saw and suffered to write of those 
incidents at a later date. 

One favourite joke of the Major's was to read 
out, and insist upon the translation of, news of 
big German victories when we were lined up on 
parade. A blow on the mouth would have been 
kinder to the poor French soldiers, who, after 
having fought bravely for France, were compelled 
to submit to such indignities as these. 

Sennelager is situated on a plateau which forms 
part of the Paderborn Heath in Westphalia. Even 
in times of peace it is notorious among German 
soldiers on account of the hard life they lead 
there, though its redeeming feature is its healthy 
situation. Good cover is plentiful, and, had one 
thought seriously of escape in those days, it would 


probably have been an easier undertaking than it 
proved to be at a later date. We all, without 
exception, however, firmly believed, that we should 
be exchanged for the German civilians interned in 
England, as soon as the British and German Gov- 
ernments found time to think of us. 

At last came the day of our release. Twenty- 
nine of us left to travel, not to England, alas ! but 
back to our domiciles in Germany. Captain von 
Schenk, the Adjutant to whom I have previously 
referred, treated us to a parting speech, in which 
he assured us that Great Britain would soon learn 
what the might of Germany meant. I left, with 
several other Englishmen, for Frankfort-on-Maine, 
where I lived under close police supervision, but 
otherwise comparatively undisturbed, until Nov. 
6, when I was re-arrested, along with all other 
Englishmen living in Germany. From then on- 
wards I spent three years in captivity, in camps, 
military prisons, and village jails, enjoying only 
such brief spells of freedom as my own efforts 
to escape procured for me. 




The spell of "liberty" we enjoyed after our re- 
lease from Sennelager was a very short one. It 
was not long before reports of the internment of 
German civilians in England appeared in the 
German press, and representations were made 
from all quarters for the internment of all civilian 
Englishmen living in Germany. For a long time 
we hoped against hope that an exchange would 
be effected upon some basis or other, but nothing 
came of it, and when we saw the inevitable we 
resigned ourselves to it with a good grace. 

On the 6th and 7th of November, arrests took 
place all over Germany, and by the end of the 
month all British subjects resident in Germany, 
between the ages of 17 and 55, had been rounded 
up and interned in Ruhlcbcn. While thousands of 
Germans in the British Isles were left entirely free, 


no Englishman in Germany escaped internment if 
he was what the authorities called transportfdhig 
(fit to be moved). This was the only test applied. 
Long residence in Germany, even lifelong resi- 
dence, counted for nothing. Ill-health, provided 
the man could bear the railway journey, made 
no difference. " Paper Englishmen," who were 
rabidly pro -German in their sympathies, shared 
the same fate as the Stockengldnder (thoroughbred 
Britishers). The case of a prominent merchant in 
Frankfort-on-Maine, who was recovering from a 
very serious surgical operation, and who had lived 
for twenty-five years in Germany, is quite a typical 
one. When I was arrested in my little village and 
taken to the nearest police station, I met there a 
fellow-countryman of mine who had forgotten that 
he was English. He was a gardener, about forty- 
five years of age, had never seen England, and 
spoke only German. He remained for over three 
years in captivity. 

The manner of my arrest was characteristic- 
ally German and amused me immensely. I had 
ordered a taxi-cab to take me and my luggage to 
the police station in the next village, and when I 
came out of the house two policemen were waiting 
for me, who forbade me to use it. 

" Sie sind jetzt Gefatigener, Herr Ellison, und Sie 


diirfcn nicht mit eincm Auto fahrcn,'' they said to 
me. (" You are now a prisoner, Mr Ellison, and 
you are not allowed to ride in a taxi.") 

However, I got in, and, accompanied by the 
Herr Gemcindediener (Mr Parish Servant or Beadle) 
drove off, leaving the two astonished policemen 
behind, to follow on foot. Before we left the 
police station, the gendarme who accompanied us 
took out a huge revolver, showed us that it was 
loaded, and told us that he would not hesitate 
to use it if either of us attempted to escape. 
We then had a wearisome tramp of about two 
hours, carrying our heavy luggage, picked up 
two other Englishmen in another village on the 
way, and then, to my disgust, came back to the 
village from which I had started ! Late that 
night we arrived at Giessen Military Camp on 
our way to Ruhleben, and there met many friends. 
Most of the men who had been released from 
Sennclagcr with me were there, and the reunion 
was a most happy one. 

We were quartered in new, well-built wooden 
barracks, about one hundred and fifty in each 
barrack, and slept side by side on straw-sacks, 
which were ranged in long rows reaching from 
one end of the building to the other. 

The Englishman on the palliasse next to mine 


was a Captain H , who had fought in the 

Boer War. Repeatedly, as I was falHng to sleep, 
he would give me a vigorous dig with his elbow. 
I groaned. 

" Ellison, sit up ! " 

"Oh, go to sleep, I'm tired!" 

" To hell with the Pope ! I haven't spoken to 
an Englishman for three solid months. Sit up, and 
I'll tell you your fortune with cards." 

This went on until about two in the morning. 

The following morning we spent walking about 
our part of the camp. There were several hundred 
British soldier prisoners there, who, under the 
supervision of our own non-commissioned officers, 
were engaged on the construction of new wooden 
barracks. We had no opportunity of conversing 
with them openly, but a few of us made a practice 
of paying very frequent visits to a certain conveni- 
ence in the camp, and, in this way, managed to 
smuggle to them a certain amount of bread and 
money. The food we received was much better 
than that supplied to us in Ruhleben later on. 

During the afternoon two of our men were 
sitting reading outside our barrack, when an old 
German carpenter came up and tried to enter 
into conversation with them. They were inter- 
ested in their books, and when the carpenter 


persisted in discussing the war and Germany's 
glorious prospects, one of them told him in 
English to "go to h — 11" This had, of course, 
no effect, as the carpenter's education had been 
somewhat neglected. Finally one of the two 
informed him in German that " there would be 
no Germany inside six months." The carpenter, 
horrified and blazing with indignation, went round 
the camp, reporting what had been said, and 
shortly afterwards a sergeant, purple with fury, 
marched up, leading four German soldiers with 
fixed bayonets, with the intention of placing 
the men under immediate arrest. 

The situation looked very serious for the men. 
Fortunately for them, he first felt it necessary to 
deliver himself of a fiery speech. A large crowd 
gathered round, and the fat sergeant raved and 
stormed and splashed and shouted, shook his 
fist and trembled, until we all expected him to 
have an apoplectic seizure on the spot. It was 
an amazing display. Even the German soldiers 
smiled behind his back. Feeling convinced that 
nothing could make matters worse, and that there 
was perhaps a very slight prospect of saving my 
friends, I ventured to offer my services as inter- 
preter; but it was a long time before I could 
induce the sergeant to listen. One of the men 


had a much better command of German than I 
had, but I maintained that my friends knew 
practically no German, that the carpenter must 
have misunderstood, that it was impossible for 
either of the men to have phrased such a state- 
ment as the one they were supposed to have 
made, and so forth. For a long time my words 
made no impression, but at length he calmed 
down a little, and, to our immense relief, marched 
his four bayonets away. We left the camp about 
an hour later. 

The guard in our compartment of the train from 
Giessen to Ruhleben was a young fellow, eighteen 
years of age, who had volunteered for service in 
the army — a Kriegsfreiwilliger. He was full of 
patriotic zeal, and eyed us for a time with great 
mistrust. Our jollity, however, was irresistible. 
We sang English songs by the dozen, and pres- 
ently Fritz junior pulled out a mouth-organ and 
began to play German folk - songs. _ He played 
shyly for a time. Then, as some of us joined 
lustily in singing them, he warmed up and playfed 
a few music-hall songs in which we could all join. 
As the night wore on he began to nod, pulled him- 
self together, gripped his rifle tighter, and — began 
to nod again. Finally, his head sank on to my 
shoulder, and he fell soundly asleep. Poor Fritz ! 


Had any one of the men you were guarding met 
you as a soldier in No Man's Land, he would have 
killed you, or you would have killed him, and passed 
on, seeing red. As it was, when your rifle slipped 
and might have wakened you, one of those chums 
of mine quietly removed it and placed it in a 
corner where it could not fall. You, for your own 
part, when Red Cross girls in the stations refused 
to give food or drink to civilians, procured it for us 
and shared what you received with us. When we 
weigh up our war-time experiences, Fritz, we re- 
member you. 

After a wearisome all-night journey we arrived 
in Spandau, detrained, and marched to Ruhleben 
Camp. We were kept standing in drizzling rain 
for a time in the centre of the camp, our personal 
effects were examined, and then, as the barracks in 
which we should have been quartered were still 
being used as stables, we were marched back to 
the Emigrant Station, facing the camp, and 
quartered there. More dismal quarters could not 
have been found, and yet I have no recollections 
pleasanter than the memory of the gay and light- 
heafted manner in which our men faced the hard- 
ships of life there. 




Many of us remained in the Emigrant Station 
for about ten days before quarters were assigned 
to us in Ruhleben Camp. Six of us had to share 
a horse-box in Barrack 7. There were no beds 
at the time, and we had to sleep on straw spread 
over the cold concrete floor. I was suffering 
from a severe cold, which I had contracted from 
one of my fellow-unfortunates who slept next to 
me in the Emigrant Station ; and as the stable 
in which we slept was without heating apparatus 
of any kind whatsoever, in a particularly cold 
November, the chances are that I should not have 
recovered had not two of my friends taken me 
in hand. They were two men who had been 
with me in Sennelager, and, on seeing my con- 
dition, put me by force into one of their bunks 
in Barrack 4. For three days they slept two in 


a bed, and nursed me with the utmost kindness 
and care back to health. Their names were 
Cole and Davy Jones. One does not forget 
such acts. 

It was not long before something like an 
ordered life began to appear out of the chaos 
of the early days. The Camp Captains have 
been the target of much criticism. But what is 
there, and who is there, that an Englishman will 
not criticise ? In those days criticism — grousing — 
was our only diversion. As I was myself for a 
time a so-called Barrack Captain, and sat on the 
Captains' Council, it is perhaps not my place 
to speak of their work. The results might have 
been better, but they most decidedly might have 
been worse ; and the various amenities which, one 
by one, found their way into the life of the 
camp were mostly due to their efforts. Whether 
they worked on right lines or on wrong lines, 
they certainly did work. 

It was interesting to note how differently the 
camp life affected different men. The first 
winter was, of course, exceedingly trying for 
every one, and those who bore its hardships 
most lightly were the young fellows who could 
indulge in sport and so keep physically lit. We 
had several men among us like Steve Bloomer, 


Pentland, Brearley, and Cameron, who, as pro- 
fessionals, had played first - class football in 
England; and, in addition to these men, we had 
quite a large number of very good amateurs. 
Football became quite a popular game, and pro- 
vided diversion not only for those who played, 
but also for the huge crowds who watched. 
Before long, barrack teams were started, and 
League football was in full swing. 

It was also not long before we discovered that 
the camp contained men of all types and of all 
sorts of abilities. For a time the men who could 
teach taught groups of old and young men who 
were eager to learn, in all sorts of out-of-the-way 
places in camp. At a later date these teachers 
were organised into a recognised teaching staff, 
and thus we had the beginnings of a most excellent 
school ; Bishop Bury called it, not without some 
reason, "The Ruhleben University." Men were 
found to teach almost every foreign language ; 
and it was not long before handicraft classes in 
leather-work, engineering, woodwork, bookbinding, 
carpet-weaving, and so on, were formed. Hun- 
dreds of men will emerge from Ruhleben Camp, 
at or before the end of the war, having added 
most useful knowledge and acquirements to the 
assets they possessed when they entered upon 


camp life. Many there were, of course, who did 
nothing at all, and who seemed to expend as 
much energy and vigour in avoiding work as 
would have enabled them to attain heights of 
culture undreamed of. 

As we had in camp quite a number of pro- 
fessional actors, and an astonishingly large 
number of others who showed great talent which 
only required to be developed, we soon had a 
Ruhleben Dramatic Society, and most excellent 
were some of the productions they staged. Music, 
too, had a large place in the camp life, and the 
Ruhleben Camp Orchestra and various madrigal 
societies and choirs presented most ambitious 
programmes with astounding success. Other 
public- spirited men worked as officials in various 
departments in the camp, and contributed in no 
small degree to making life there as tolerable as 
camp life could be. It soon became bad form 
to talk of one's troubles, because the men who 
were most engrossed in their own losses and 
worries had not far to go before they found 
some one whose situation was far worse than 
their own. 

Mr Gerard, in his book, ' My Four Years in 
Germany,' writing of Ruhleben Camp, says: — 

" Establishment of clubs seems inherent to the 


Anglo-Saxon nature. Ten or more persons would 
combine together and erect a sort of wooden shed 
against the brick walls of a barrack, hire some 
poorer person to put on a white jacket and be 
addressed as "steward," put in the shed a few 
deck-chairs and table, and enjoy the sensation of 
exclusiveness and club life thereby given." 

I myself belonged to a group of men who 
shared a " sort of wooden shed against the brick 
walls of a barrack," and was very glad indeed 
of the opportunity it afforded me of meeting in- 
teresting men. We called it " The Corner House 
Club," and its members were mainly actors, 
artists, literary men, and musicians. 

Most of us had been pitchforked together in 
the most indiscriminate fashion on our arrival in 
Ruhleben, and lived in groups of six in our tiny 
horse-boxes. The most marked incompatibility 
of temperament was not regarded by the Camp 
authorities as a sufficient reason for the grant of 
a separation order, and one soon began to long 
for the unattainable — privacy. Privacy being out 
of the question, congenial spirits got together and 
formed clubs. The men sought not so much ex- 
clusiveness as quiet, and society and conversation 
of the right kind. 

The Corner House was quite a cosy place 


when I last saw it in the autumn of 1917. It 
was barely five paces wide, and certainly not 
more than twenty paces long, but it had been 
fitted with a bay window and a wooden floor, 
small tables, cane chairs, and a piano. The wall 
at the far end was covered with a large canvas, 
painted by one of the members, Wintser, de- 
picting the front of the Cafe de la Paix. The 
members sat alone or in groups, reading or talk- 
ing, and occasionally one of the musicians — Keel, 
Bonhote, Pauer, Weber, " Mac," or Bainton — 
would stroll to the piano and play. The utmost 
good-fellowship reigned, and I have many pleasant 
memories of the hours I spent in that "wooden 
shed against the brick walls of a barrack." 

But, numerous as were opportunities of work 
and diversion in the camp, the sense of imprison- 
ment was always there. The longest walk in 
camp eventually brought one face to face with 
barbed wire, and a sentry behind the barbed 
wire, to remind one that the mailed fist held 
us back from the Homeland and those who were 
near and dear to us. What most of us felt 
most keenly was the fact that we had been 
denied the opportunity of serving our country in 
an active sense in the time of her great need. 

Those who chafed were usually reminded by 


the quieter spirits that "they also serve who 
only stand and wait " ; but such a philosophy 
affords slight comfort when addressed to an eager 
youth who knows quite well that, had he not 
been held back, he would at that very moment 
have been doing his bit and bearing his share 
of the burden in an active and not a passive 
sense. That, I believe, apart from sheer love of 
adventure, is the motive which animated most of 
those men who attempted, again and again, to 

We watched the progress of the seasons from 
bare winter to the freshness of spring, the luxuri- 
ance of summer, and the decay of autumn, with 
a new interest, and yearned for the freedom and 
quiet of an English country lane with its sweet- 
briar, hawthorn blossom, blackbirds, and bees. 
There was a beautiful wood just outside the con- 
fines of the camp, and we used to watch its 
seasonal changes, which filled us with a painful 
longing for freedom. 

Our life there taught us at least one useful 
lesson — that freedom in a slum is priceless com- 
pared with imprisonment in a palace, and 
Ruhleben Camp was no palace. A few broke 
down, mentally or physically, under the strain ; 
but the majority, gay and light-hearted, endured 


with splendid fortitude their undreamed-of trials. 
We discovered, too, that the most valuable thing 
to have learned was the liveableness of life ; and 
priceless, as companions and friends, were those 
men in the camp whom no reverses could em- 
bitter, and who had always a cheery smile, a 
joke, or an encouraging word to lighten the 
drear darkness of our captivity. 




The men interned in Ruhleben had reason to be 
grateful for what I believe is a characteristic of our 
race — a saying sense of humour. Even in the darkest 
days of the first v^inter, a defiant gaiety — entirely 
different in its nature from a cheerful resignation 
— characterised the attitude of the greater part of 
the men in camp. On the most dismal nights it 
wsis no uncommon thing to see a small crovv^d of 
thirty or forty English fellows, congregated in 
front of one of the barrack entrances, singing to 
the tune of 

" Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear ! 
It is not night if Thou be near," 

an adaptation of their own, running as follows — 

" Are we downhea-a-a-rted, o-oh, no, no ; 
Are we downhea-a-a-rted, o-oh, no, no ; 
Are we downhea-a-a-rted, o-oh, no, no ; " 

and so on ad infinitum. 


About three days after my arrival in the camp, I 
saw half a dozen young Irishmen link hands and 
dance a war -dance round an indignant "paper 
Englishman" — a typical German, with beard, 
flowing moustaches, a German cloak, and a Tyrol- 
ese hat, with an article like a shaving-brush stuck 
in it behind. 

On another occasion. General von Kessel and 
his staff were due to visit camp on a round of 
inspection, and, to our great glee, they arrived on a 
very rainy morning, when the camp was one horrid 
mess of black mud and pools of water. In front 
of Barrack 8 a large pool had been formed by the 
rain, and as General von Kessel and his immacu- 
lately attired staff picked their way gingerly through 
the mud, and in and out of the pools of water, they 
saw one of the sailor-men sitting on an island in 
the middle of the pond, excitedly and triumphantly 
angling, with a bloater at the end of his line. 
General von Kessel was heard by some one to 
remark: "Die Engldnder haben wenigstens Humor'' 
(" The English have at least a sense of humour ") — 
and one or two other qualities. General von Kessel, 
as you have since learned to your cost. 

Two comedians who lived in the loft of one of 
the barracks were gifted with sparkling wit. We 
had in the camp a perfect caricature of a German 


soldier, about 5 ft. high. One day he was passing 
below the loft window at which one of these 
brothers sat. Peering through the window, he 
called out to the soldier — 

"Hello! Hindenburg!" 

Even the soldier could not refrain from laughing. 

From the loft window, the same witty fellow 
noticed a German workman perched at the top of 
a telegraph pole, on the opposite side of the road, 
repairing one of the wires. 

" I sigh, Bill," he sang out, with a rich Cockney 
accent, to a friend of his sitting opposite, "arsk 
that bloke if 'e can give me change for a Mark ! " 

Shortly before I left camp, in the autumn of 
1917, the prisoners had hit upon a most amusing 
measure of retaliation whenever the camp author- 
ities resorted to unjustifiable and inconvenient 
wholesale punishments, such as extra roll-calls for 
the whole camp when one or two men had 
attempted to escape. Owing to the fact that 
English food parcels came in regularly, food was 
drawn from the German supplies only about twice 
a week, when potatoes boiled in their jackets and 
other luxuries of a similar kind were supplied by 
the German authorities. The German bread also 
was very seldom applied for, partly because of its 
inferior quality, and partly because biscuits and 


bread were sent to us from England, Switzerland, 
and Denmark. When a punitive measure was 
resorted to by the camp officials, the word was 
passed round that the men should go up to the 
camp kitchens and to the camp bread stores, each 
man applying for his portion of bread and soup 
until the punitive measure was cancelled. On at 
least one occasion, the camp officers issued a type- 
written notice to the effect that the measures 
which had been resorted to by them were not to 
be regarded as punitive measures, and that the 
decision had been arrived at to cancel them at 
once. No wonder, considering that one day, when 
the prisoners resorted to retaliatory measures of 
this kind, they cleared the stores and the kitchens 
of food supplies, which, under normal conditions, 
would have sufficed for a fortnight. 

One night two Irish sailors became merrily 
drunk from liquor which they had obtained in 
some way or other, and, late at night, climbed 
over one of the barbed-wire fences which separate 
the camp from the race-course. They wandered 
about the course, singing, until they were chal- 
lenged by a sentry. One of them ran, under the 
impression that his friend was following, but when 
he glanced round, he found that his chum had 
Hung himself on to the ground, and was lying flat 



on his back, laughing uproariously, with the sentry 
standing over him. The soldier managed to get 
him into his sentry-box, and mounted guard over 
him with his rifle until assistance came, during 
which time the Irishman sang at the top of his 

voice — 

" Love me and the world is mine." 

Practical jokes and horse-play were, as one 
would expect, much in evidence in such a high- 
spirited crowd. Two young stable-boys made a 
butt of an old jockey by allowing condensed milk 
to trickle on to his head while he lay asleep in his 
bunk at night. When this had gone on for several 
nights, the old man began to think that something 
was seriously wrong, and even went to the length 
of visiting the camp doctor, to the huge delight of 
the two young scoundrels. 

Friends of mine who lived in a certain barrack 
were much troubled by a hypochondriac young 
gentleman, who imagined that he was at death's 
door, when he was only suffering from a slight cold 
on the chest. One of them came to me with a 
queer mixture in a glass jar, which he said con- 
sisted, among other things, of treacle and con- 
densed milk, a little mustard, and other sticky 
substances. They had told their hypochondriac 
friend that I had an excellent prescription for a 


chest plaster, which they felt certain would cure 
his cold. I was asked to visit the patient within 
half an hour and bring the jar with me, advising 
him, with a serious face, to spread the sticky mess 
over brown paper, lay it on his chest, and keep it 
there for twenty -four hours. I turned up later, 
the hypochondriac gentleman bubbled over with 
gratitude, applied the plaster, and swore after- 
wards that it had cured his complaint. 

The ' Ruhleben Camp Magazine ' was very ably 
conducted, and was rich in humorous sketches of 
all the different phases of camp life. Much of its 
humour people who had not actually lived in the 
camp might find it difficult to understand and 
appreciate, but it was humour of a high standard, 
and the magazine ought to live as a delightful 
record of that famous camp. 

In the editorial notes one day I noticed a 
paragraph to the effect that "At Home" cards 
had been received from Messrs Kaufmann and 
Armstrong. Kaufmann and Armstrong were two 
friends of mine who bad made a futile attempt to 
escape from camp, had been recaptured, and were 
at the time in the camp cells. Were the magazines 
accessible at the time of writing, I could quote 
a hundred other witticisms illustrative of its 


After a time, boys under a certain age were 
segregated in a separate barrack under the charge 
of an officer of the mercantile marine. The lads 
gave him a lively time, and were always in mis- 
chief. On one occasion they hoisted the " Blue 
Peter," the flag which is hoisted at the masthead 
when a ship is about to sail. Baron von Taube, 
Kommandant of the camp, happened to pass by, 
and, ignorant of its significance, drew his sword 
and, with a dramatic stroke, severed the lanyard 
to which the flag was attached. 

One day the youngsters dug pits close to the 
barrack, and carefully concealed them with a light 
covering of sticks and earth. Rumour had it that 
at least one German soldier disappeared igno- 
miniously for a few seconds in that way. 

The debates held in the grand stand were a 
source of more merriment than edification, and 
the speakers usually found an appreciative and 
sympathetic audience in the large crowds of sea- 
faring men who flocked to the meetings. 

Many successful revues were held in the camp, 
but I was unfortunately in prison when the best 
of them were given. Apart from serious plays of 
all kinds, light comedy was acted on the Ruhleben 
stage with pronounced success. The make-up of 
many of the " girls," whose parts were taken by 


good-looking fellows in the camp, was astonish- 
ingly well done. 

Sad, though amusing, were the antics of a 
steeplechase jockey, whose mind had given way 
under the strain of his long captivity. He used to 
dress as a jockey and run round the course, leaping 
over imaginary obstacles, under the impression 
that he was a race -horse. 

Another inmate of the camp, who had become 
insane, used to get inside a Gladstone bag, take 
hold of both handles, and endeavour to carry him- 
self away. His room companions had on one 
occasion to complain to him that he did not wash 
as often as they thought he should. He glared 
at them, and shouted with indignation — 

" Lice ! You speak to me of lice ! I shall speak 
to you of po-lice !" 

In the autumn of 1917, the question of the 
internment in Holland of a considerable number 
of prisoners in Rubleben had been decided upon 
between British and German delegates at The 
Hague, and most of the men in camp were 
examined by the medical authorities. The in- 
terned were invited to state in writing the com- 
plaints from which they were suffering, and an 
Irish wit wrote down a most voluminous statement, 
embodying most of the diseases under the sun. 


The camp doctor examined him for symptoms of 
most of these complaints, and then, turning to him 
and tapping his forehead, said in English — 

" I think there is something wrong with you 

*' Begorrah, doctor, I'd forgotten that. You are 
right," said the Irishman, " put that down too ! " 

Many of the seafaring men in Ruhleben Camp 
were full of a dry and often unconscious humour. 
As I was strolling along the alley - way of my 
barrack one day, I noticed an old sailor sitting 
on his stool at the entrance to his box, mending 
an old pair of pants. He looked up as I neared 
him and said very seriously — 

" Yes, sir, when this is over, and I get back to 
the old country, me and the missus '11 be drunk for 
a fortnight. Yes, for a fortnight." 

As one lay awake at night, along with the five 
others who shared his horse-box, he often over- 
heard scraps of conversation in the adjacent boxes. 
One night an old captain was heard to roll over in 
his bunk, and groaning, say — 

** How do we know that we are not dead and in 
hell already ? " 

The kitchens were called "the galleys" by the 
seafaring men, from the first day of camp life 
onwards, and the sailors often compared their stay 


in Ruhleben Camp to a ship becalmed in the 
Doldrums — a ship whose engines were out of gear, 
or one that was making b few knots an hour. 

*' What's the use of worrying about why we are 
here ? " said an imperturbable Irish ship's mate to 
me one day. "We have dared to exist, and that's 
about all there is to it." 

I often felt that he was not far wrong. 




During the first six months of life in Ruhleben 
Camp I had charge of a barrack containing 
about two hundred coloured men, chiefly ships' 
firemen, who had been taken from British ships, 
trapped in German harbours on the outbreak of 

The first batch of about one hundred arrived 
late one night at short notice, from the hulks in 
Hamburg, where the poor fellows had had a rough 
time, and my Vice-Captain (Mr Harold Redmayne 
of Manchester) and I, helped by a number of 
others, had a busy couple of hours housing them. 
The German authorities insisted on our taking full 
particulars of each man for their records before 
food was given to them, the darkies, with their sea 
kit on their shoulders, filing past the table at which 
we worked. 


"What's your name?" I asked one man — a 
West African. 

" Sh^m Toby, sah." 

"All right, Sam." 

" And your age ? " 

" No savvy what you mean, sah," replied Sam 
with a puzzled look. 

A more intelligent nigger behind gave him a 
hefty dig with his elbow. 

"Ah, de boss want to know how many yeahs 
old you get." 

"Twenty-foah, boss." 

" And what month were you born ? " 

" De boss want to know what month you get 
born," prompted my new-found friend. 

" I no savvy, boss." 

" Hum, you don't know ? Was it May ? " 

" Yes, I tink 'e was May, boss," replied Sam. 

"Or June?" I ventured. 

" Yes, I tink 'e was June too, boss." 

" Suppose we say April ? " 

" Ah, dat do very well, sah ! " was the answer. 

When the barrack, a long wooden shed where 
the men slept on straw-sacks side by side, was full, 
we found that we had representatives of about 
ten different races. We had Arabs, Hindoos, West 
Indians, men from Sierpa Leone, the Gold Coast, 


Liberia, the Straits Settlements, South Africa, and 
other places I no longer remember. Apart from 
the firemen, we had a few variety stage artists, 
a cinematograph actor, tradesmen who had lived 
for years in Germany, a professional boxer, a 
Hindoo valet, and a circus rider. There was a 
distinct cleavage between the West Indians, who 
were, for the most part, well-educated men, and the 
West Africans, many of whom were little more than 
savages, and it was no easy task to find a uniform 
method of treatment which would be fair to each 
section, and equally firm to both. Of the two 
classes of men, taken as a whole, I preferred the 
Africans. They were less suspicious, capable of 
greater devotion, and decidedly more reliable. 

To solve the problem of treatment to some 
extent, we picked out two men from each section, 
who seemed to be able to command a lead, and 
appointed each as our assistant, with fairly full 
powers over his men. The scheme worked very 

As soon as the novelty of camp life had worn off, 
time began to hang heavily on their hands, and we 
set about to discover ways and means of finding 
them something to do. Each man took orderly 
duty in turn, but there was very little to do beyond 
keeping the barrack clean and tidy. The rest of 


the day the orderlies were entirely free to do as 
they liked. As very few of the Africans could read 
or write, I got together a number of my friends 
who had had experience of teaching, among them 
three university lecturers, and asked them to help 
me to form a school in reading, writing, and 
arithmetic. They very willingly co-operated with 
me; a blackboard, copy books, pencils, and reading 
books were obtained through the Camp Education 
Committee, and before long the school was in full 
swing. The men sat on their straw-sack beds and 
used the long benches as desks. For the more 
advanced men we formed classes to meet their 

One day I came across an old West African 
fireman, named Sam Davies, who had patiently 
been copying for a fortnight the sentence — 

" It is very hard to write well^ 

" It is pretty hard, isn't it, Sam ? " I said, by way 
of encouragement. 

"Yesh, sah!" 

" Spell this word, Sam," I said, pointing to the 
word HARD. 

After several efforts, he managed, and then I 
said — 

" Now what does that spell ?" 

" VERY, sah ! " he answered proudly. 

6o ' ESCAPED! 

I gave him up. 

As an experiment, I started a series of simple 
lectures on various subjects, securing the help of a 
number of very good men in camp, who quite 
enjoyed lecturing to so interesting an audience. 

The following are some of the lectures which 
were given, the one on astronomy arousing the 
keenest interest : — 

"A talk about the stars," by a London B.Sc. 

" How an English city is governed," by a Man- 
chester City Councillor. 

** Mountain climbing," by a Mountaineer. 

** Football," by an International Footballer. 

" Why men write books," by an Author. 

"Tales from Shakespeare," | by a University 

*• Tales from English history," 3 Lecturer. 

** The Government of England," by the Writer, 
and many others. 

The funny questions they put to the lecturer at 
the close were ample recompense for any trouble 

Redmayne and I were responsible, too, for the 
distribution of relief in money and in kind from the 
British Government, and kept a careful record of 
all that each man received. A circus-rider named 
Thomas came up one day and asked for a ticket 
for a shirt at the Relief Stores. As we handed him 


the ticket, after making the usual investigation into 
his case, he grinned and, scratching his head, 
said — 

" An' I say, boss, will you give me ticket for one 
of de smooth cotton shirts ? " 

" A cotton shirt in winter, Thomas ? " 

" Yes, sah ! You see de trubbul is dis. I no 
get de louse from the woolly shirt. 'E stick to 
'im, but I get 'im off de smooth cotton one all 

Once, when one of the bath-houses had been 
condemned for repairs, an Englishman, ignorant 
of this fact, was taking a cold douche there, in the 
dark, when he was caught by a German corporal, who 
took down his name and barrack number for the 
purpose of punishment later. When the corporal 
had gone, the Englishman, who had thought him- 
self alone, was astonished to hear a chuckle in the 
farthest corner of the room. He peered into the 
darkness and saw simply a row of shining ivories 
and two gleaming eyes. It was one of our 

"Dis de first time I glad I be a blaack man!" 
roared Sambo with great glee. 

On another occasion, one nigger accused a West 
Indian of stealing food from one of his parcels. 
Usually we are able to settle such matters at once, 


by hearing both sides, and calling witnesses when 
necessary. This case, however, came to the notice 
of the authorities, and I was told to bring the men 
before Count von Bismarck, who was then one of 
the camp officers. The case was gone into with 
great solemnity. The Count questioned and cross- 
questioned, I interpreted, and a secretary took 
down a voluminous statement. At the end of a 
two-hours' sitting, the Count asked how much was 
missing from the parcel ? 

"One herring and 'bout two teaspoonsful of tea, 
Cap'n," was the reply. 

A West African named Toby Robert became of 
unsound mind, but for a long time I thought he 
was simply ill and depressed. Meeting him one 
day in camp I spoke to him, and asked him if he 
was feeling better. He snarled, and a strange look 
came into his eyes. He gave me strange answers, 
and when I took out my handkerchief to wipe my 
nose, he flew into a terrible passion. 

" Dat very bad ting. Dat very bad ting what 
you do, sah ! " 

He went away, muttering angrily. I turned into 
my barrack and thought no more of the incident. 

From that moment on, for a whole fortnight, 
he dogged me wherever I went in camp, turning 
up most unexpectedly at odd moments, and swear- 


ing the most solemn oaths that he would murder 
me. When I went into the barrack at night, he 
would leap up from bed and follow me, snarling 
and repeating his threats. 

" You very good man, Cap'n, but you try gram- 
mophone me, and 'cause you try grammophone 
me, I'll kill you. 'Fore God an' Jesus Christ, I 

I could get no light on what he meant by 
" grammophoning," until I asked my West African 
orderly. He laughed. 

" Oh, Cap'n, he thinks you try to chloroform 
him. Dat's what he means by 'grammophone.'" 

The camp doctor, after seeing him, promised to 
have him removed at once, but did nothing. As 
there was no improvement in Toby's condition, I 
again besought the doctor to remove him. His 
reply was that he had come to the conclusion that 
he was " simply eccentric " ! All that I cared 
about was that the lad should not plunge a knife 
between my shoulder-blades in one of his "eccen- 
tric " moods. 

One man came to me with a very much swollen 
face, due to toothache. I told him that the camp 
dentist would be coming the following day, and 
instructed him to take along with him some one 
who spoke German. The following day he came 


into my room, his face wreathed with a most 
happy smile. 

" Well, what's the matter with you ? " 

" Oh, sah, dat very funny ting. I go along to 
de dentist with Sam Roberts, who say he speak 
German. He no speak German at all, Cap'n. De 
dentist, 'e put Sam in de chair an' yank out 'is 
tooth. Sam yell like 'ell and I run. I never have 
no more toothache, Cap'n." 

A few of them played cricket remarkably well, 
but their efforts to learn football were ludicrous 
in the extreme. 

Many had a shrewd business instinct, and, as 
soon as they could get together a little capital, 
set up in business as shoeblacks in our shopping 
centre. Bond Street, as cobblers, vendors of pea- 
nuts — anything whereby they could earn money. 

Gambling for heavy stakes was a vice I tried 
in vain to crush. At one time I thought I had 
succeeded, but it broke out again, the men meeting 
in out-of-the-way places in camp and posting 
sentries^ at strategical points for the purpose of 
giving them warning. One Arab who had been 
cheated of a large part of his savings secreted a 
stone in his pocket, and sitting down quietly 
beside the man he suspected, suddenly burst into 
a frenzy of rage, and tried to smash in the skull 


of the other man with the stone. He was dragged 
into my room, screaming, foaming at the mouth, 
and shaking in every limb. 

The scene at night, in the dimly-lighted barrack, 
is one I shall never forget. Here were a few men 
sleeping ; there a group playing a strange, rapid 
game on a draught-board ; at one end, a dozen 
sitting in a circle, chanting the weirdest song to 
the accompaniment of furious beating on pans and 
empty biscuit-tins. I would pass on and thread 
my way through another group who were discuss- 
ing religion with much heat. In the last corner, 
sitting on their beds, were a few Arabs poring over 
the Koran. 

Now that I am back in England, my mind often 
travels in quiet moments to Ruhleben Camp, where 
my chum is still captaining the handful of coloured 
men who are left. I wish them Veil. 

In April 1915 I got into trouble with the German 
camp officers and found my way to prison for the 
first time. The events which led to my removal 
from Ruhleben Camp are worth placing on record, 
mainly because they illustrate the working of the 
German mind, under certain conditions, better than 
anything else I know. 

One day, about the beginning of April, one of 


my men — a West Indian named Allen, who had 
been twenty-five years in Germany — went to the 
Ruhleben Camp officers and produced a list of 
thirty-eight coloured men, who, he said, were in a 
pitiable condition, unable to obtain relief in the 
way of clothing either from the British Government 
or from this barrack captain. He had been trying 
for a long time to undermine my influence among 
the men because I had, on one occasion, punished 
him with forty-eight hours' cells for an offence 
against barrack discipline. This he had never 

His charge of neglect was absolutely false. From 
the first I had realised that nothing would please 
the German authorities better than to be able to 
lay hold upon such information for propaganda 
purposes, and not only had I insisted that the 
coloured men should be treated, if anything, a 
little better than the rest of the interned, but we 
had also kept careful statistics of all that the men 
had received. Allen's statements, however, were 
believed at once, and the German officers handed 
him M. 190, to be distributed by him at the rate 
of M. 5 per man, among the thirty-eight men. 

When I learned of this I was furious at the 
imputation that we had not been doing our duty 
by the men, and I determined to oppose the camp 


officers in the matter. Further, I had a shrewd 
suspicion that the money was not German money 
at all. Never had I known the actions of these 
particular officers to savour of such reckless gener- 
osity. I learned later that they were getting a 
reputation for liberality to the armen Neger by 
presenting them with M. 190 from the bank interest 
earned on the deposits of British prisoners in the 
camp ! There is no doubt whatever that if the 
matter had been allowed to rest there, and their 
unwarranted interference in a matter which solely 
concerned the British authorities allowed to pass 
unchallenged, the incident would have had far- 
reaching consequences, and much would have been 
made of it for propaganda purposes. 

The day before the distribution of British relief 
money at the rate of M. 5 a week to destitutes, 
we called the men together and I explained to 
them that we should be compelled to regard those 
men who accepted the M. 5 from the German 
officers as no longer destitute, and therefore not 
entitled to M. 5 from the British Government. 

" In other words," I added, " if you care to 
look at it in that light, you can't have it, men, 
both ways. You must make your choice. Either 
the German officers or the British Government. 
One or the other, but not both." 


In the meantime, Allen had been trying hard to 
get rid of the money, but with very little success. 
He reported the state of aifairs faithfully to the 
German officers, as was his wont, and they were 
furious. Twice he was ordered to distribute the 
money, and twice he failed. We refrained from 
advising the men in any way, though they knew 
quite well how we felt about the matter and 
behaved splendidly. 

Several came to me and said indignantly — 
" I no want de German man money, boss. De 
German man no good for de black man. Only 
de English man good for de black man. I'm 

Finally a peremptory order came that the money 
had to be distributed within an hour, without fail, 
and with the help of the German corporals in 
charge of the barrack, it was distributed — meta- 
phorically speaking, at the point of the bayonet. 
I retaliated by stopping the British relief money 
of the men who had accepted it. 

The following afternoon I was called up before 
two of the camp officers, Oberleutnant von 
Amelunxen and Captain MuUer. I had to remain 
standing throughout the inquiry. 

The case against me was based upon a written 
statement made by Allen, and there were two 


definite charges. One was that I had " commanded 
the men to refuse the money from the German 
officers." The second was that I had told Allen 
that he had " lowered himself as a British sub- 
ject by accepting money from German officers in 
time of war." I denied both charges. They gave 
me clearly to understand that they believed the 
"coloured gentleman." 

"Then what have you done and said?" they 
demanded with much bluster. 

Using a word they used on every possible occa- 
sion, I told them that I had acted strictly in 
accordance with regulations (Vorschriftsgemdss). 
When they wanted to know which regulations, I 
told them " British regulations," and they were 

What had I said ? I told them that I had 
certainly not said anything like that to Allen, but 
that I had simply spoken for myself. I would 
certainly not dream of accepting gifts from 
German officers in time of war. That annoyed 
them too. 

'Mc/t," snarled Miiller. "When I come to one 
of your camp concerts, I put a M. 20 note on the 
plate. You accept that." 

I replied that there it was simply a matter of 
courtesy. Here an important principle was in- 


volved— that British subjects should seek support 
from their own Government in time of war. 

** But the British Government has neglected 
these poor niggers," he retorted. 

" That is not true," I answered with some heat, 
and told him how we could have proved the con- 
trary in the clearest possible manner from carefully 
kept statistics, if we had been consulted as to the 
truth of this man's charges. They were at a dead- 
lock, and decided that the coloured gentleman 
should be called in. When I quite poHtely re- 
quested that one of my fellow-captains should be 
allowed to be present, Amelunxen lost his temper 
and shouted — 

" You are a prisoner. You have no right to 
demand anything at all." 

Very quietly I pointed out that I demanded 
nothing, but simply urgently requested to be 
allowed something which was my right. I was 
determined not to spoil a sound case by losing 
control of my temper, however great the provo- 
cation might be. 

Meanwhile Allen had arrived. 

They proceeded to question him, and so great 
was my disgust at the whole character of the 
proceedings, that I refused to speak for a time 
or to take any further part in the inquiry. Then, 


realising that my silence might be interpreted as 
tacit assent to all that he said, I swung round on 
him, and cross-questioning him rapidly, succeeded 
in "tying him up" to an extent far beyond my 
expectations. I insisted on a literal translation 
into German of the most vital points in his 
admissions, and their case against me collapsed 

They were furious beyond words. 

Banging his fist on the table, and running his 
fingers through his hair, Amelunxen shouted, al- 
most screamed — 

" Sie sind deutschfeindlich ! " (** You are an enemy 
of ours," or " of Germany.") 

I looked at him in amazement. 

" Most certainly I am deutschfeindlich ! What 
else can you expect ? I am an Englishman. I 
had many friends in Germany prior to the out- 
break of war, and regretted as much as any one 
that war should break out between these two 
countries. But with the declaration of war I 
became your enemy, and shall remain your enemy 
until the declaration of peace." 

'* Unerhurt ! Der Mensch soil in Einzelhaft in 
Berlin sitzcn" he screamed. (" Unheard of! The 
fellow should be in solitary confinement in Berlin.") 

" All right," I said hotly ; " if I have deserved 


solitary confinement in Berlin, by all means put 
me there. I am not afraid of you or your threats. 
I have been guilty not even of discourtesy towards 
you. I have simply given a straight answer to your 

" Ach, it is not a question of discourtesy at all," 
snarled Muller. ** It is that you are so pronounced 
in your enmity towards us that you are thereby 
not well fitted for the position of captain in this 

** If that is what you are driving at, gentlemen," 
I answered, "then the sooner I am rid of the 
position the better I shall be pleased. Any 
moment you care to ask for my resignation, it 
is in your hands." 

Amelunxen stormed out of the room with his 
notes in his hand. Muller would have followed, 
but I thought, seeing that they had been so de- 
termined to down me, that I had better get from 
him some definite statement as to the result of the 

Had I, I asked, succeeded in proving my in- 
nocence of the charges preferred against me ? 
At first he gave me no answer, but when I got 
between him and the door and repeated my ques- 
tion, he shrugged his shoulders and answered — 

" Yes, yes. The nigger admits that he was 


wrong. The whole matter is finished with." 
{"Die gauze Sach€ ist erledigt.") 

In the meantime no fresh evidence was brought 
up against me. Twenty-four hours later the camp 
was cleared. I was placed under arrest and marched 
off to the guard-room. My guards then took me to 
the Stadt Vogtei Prison in Berlin, where I remained 
for five weeks in strict solitary confinement, never 
once informed why I was there, and never once 
given the semblance of a trial. 




Scene — Quarantine Camp in Holland in November I9i7' 

Austrian Deserter. *' I vas against ze English at ze Vest front, vith a 
pattery of^ach ! — how do you call him ? — howitzers, nicht ? " 

Myself. "Yes, howitzers." 

Austrian Deserter. " And zere stood a fery pig English attack pefore 
— oh, a fery pig one. And I tink to myself, * It is not fery 
akreeable ! ' So I tesert ! " 

I FIRST thought seriously of escaping from Germany 
when I found myself in the Stadt Vogtei Prison, 
Berlin, in the spring of 1915. I had played with 
the idea before, but the difficulties in the way 
seemed at first almost insuperable. I was interned, 
along with other Englishmen living in Germany, in 
Ruhleben Camp, which is situated between Berlin 
and Spandau, more than three hundred miles, as 
the crow flies, from the Dutch frontier. I knew 
from life in Germany in times of peace how won- 
derfully organised the whole of Germany was, and 


I realised that peace organisation would undoubt- 
edly have been perfected to meet the exigencies of 
war. It was evident that if one were to come to 
the decision to escape, at such a distance from the 
frontier, the most trivial detail of one's plans would 
have to be very carefully thought out. This ren- 
dered necessary a fairly thorough knowledge of con- 
ditions in Germany, which could only be arrived 
"at by very patient and very cautious inquiry. 

Had I taken advantage of the few little privi- 
leges granted me as barrack captain, I should 
doubtless have found it easier to escape from Ruh- 
leben Camp than I could as an ordinary interned 
prisoner. Feeling, however, that it would not be 
playing the game to make a wrong use of these 
privileges, I decided to abandon my intention to 
escape as long as I remained in that position. 

In April 1915, when I ventured to oppose the 
German camp officers on what I regarded — and 
still regard — as an important matter of principle, 
I was informed by Baron von Taube, the Com- 
mandant of tjie camp, that I was being taken to 
prison for the purpose of trial. Two corporals, 
armed with rifles, escorted me to Berlin, and handed 
me over to the warders of the Stadt Vogtei Prison. 
The prison authorities were informed later that I 
had been sent ''for the purpose of punishment'' — not 


for trial — and that I had to be kept in the strict- 
est form of solitary confinement for an indefinite 
period. All my letters of inquiry and of protest 
remained unanswered. 

While in the yard one day for exercise, I met a 
Scotsman who had made a very plucky escape from 
Ruhleben a fortnight before. Although fifty-two 
years of age, he had been the first to attempt to 
get out of Germany from Ruhleben, and, after a 
very adventurous fourteen days' tramp, had been 
seen and arrested by a gendarme about thirty miles 
from the Dutch frontier. A lasting friendship grew 
up between us, and I learned much from him of 
conditions in Berlin and Germany. 

I determined to escape at the first opportunity. 

At the end of five weeks I bade farewell to my 
friend. The American Embassy had succeeded in 
procuring my release from prison, and I was sent 
back to camp. 

Two of my friends in camp were Mr E. Falk and 
Mr Geoffrey Pyke, whose plucky escape from 
Ruhleben Camp has been recorded in * Black- 
wood's Magazine,' ^ and in Mr Fyke's book, * To 
Ruhleben and Back.' For a time we were prac- 
tically pledged to each other to escape together. 

* " My Experiences as a Prisoner of War in Germany, and How I 
Escaped," By E. M. F., ' Maga,' January 1916. 


We met at all hours of the day, and in all sorts of 
places in camp, for the purpose of discussing plans 
and consulting maps and newspapers. 
•* For a long time the question of greatest import- 
ance was that of choosing the most suitable route. 
We ruled the Swiss frontier, both in Austria and 
Germany, out of the question, partly on account of 
the great distance which would have to be covered 
in order to get there, and partly because we had 
very little information concerning either of these 
two frontiers. The two others which remained 
were the routes to Denmark and to Holland. The 
route to Denmark by land, had we chosen it, would 
have meant that we should have had to cover 
almost as much distance as that from Berlin to 
the Dutch frontier, and, further, presented two 
definite objections. The first was the difficulty we 
should have to face in crossing the Kiel Canal, and 
the second was the presence in Schleswig-Holstein, 
at that time, of a very considerable number of 
German troops. The frontier was, moreover, only 
a short one, and comparatively easy to guard. 
The prospect, on the other hand, of escaping by 
boat across the Baltic to Denmark appealed very 
strongly to us, and it was long before we decided 
to abandon this idea and centre all our thoughts 
on plans for reaching the Dutch frontier. 


Our idea, had we chosen the northern route, was 
to have tramped the whole distance to the Baltic 
coast, lying up during the day and walking only by 
night. On arrival there, we should have endeav- 
oured to evade the vigilance of the coastguards, 
steal a fishing-boat, and row or sail across the 
narrow straits which separate Denmark from Ger- 
many, to the north of the small peninsula known 
as The Zingst. The danger of arriving on the 
coast, however, and finding it impossible, when 
there, to procure a boat of any kind, led us to rule 
the Danish route out of our reckoning. ' 

When the date of our departure was drawing 
near, I had a strong presentiment — I can give it 
no more definite name — that three were one too 
many for such an enterprise, and I decided to drop 
out. My two friends escaped, spent about a fort- 
night en route, and succeeded in crossing the Dutch 
frontier on July 24, 1915. When I look back on 
their success and on my failure at the time, I do 
not regret my decision, for, after all, it was infin- 
itely better that two out of three should escape 
rather than that three should be captured. 

As soon as they had gone, I set to work on fresh 
plans along with another man, who, until quite 
recently, was still a prisoner in Ruhleben — a British 
subject by naturalisation, who spoke perfect Ger- 


man, and had a thorough knowledge of the country 
and of the ways of the German people. His skill 
in conducting the most delicate negotiations drew 
from me unstinted admiration. In describing this 
attempt to escape, I shall, for obvious reasons, deal 
only with such facts as became known to the 
German authorities after our capture. 

There was much to recommend the policy of 
attempting to reach the Dutch frontier by means 
of a short railway journey and a long tramp ; but 
eventually we decided to make a quick dash for 
Holland, and had we not been captured on the 
Dutch frontier, we should have succeeded in reach- 
ing Holland and freedom within less than thirty- 
six hours. As a matter of fact, the day Falk and 
Pyke, who had been a fortnight on the way, suc- 
ceeded in crossing the frontier, we, after a journey 
of less than twenty-four hours, were captured there. 
This would surely have been a record escape, in 
point of view of time ! 

In those days it was usual for volunteer working 
gangs to go out of Ruhleben Camp with carts, 
accompanied by a German soldier, for the purpose 
of bringing into the camp, manure, gravel, and soil 
for the gardens. As it was desirable for us to 
escape from camp in the early afternoon, so as to 
be able to leave Berlin that night, we were glad to 


be able to avail ourselves of the opportunity of 
escaping with the help of one of these gangs. A 
pretext was found for taking a cart out of the camp 
to get gravel for the camp gardens, and if there were 
any observant people close to the main gates about 
four o'clock on the afternoon of the 23rd July 1915, 

they were probably astonished to see E and 

myself strenuously helping, for the first time, to 
drag a cart through the open gates into the road 
which ran past the front of the camp. 

Our first trip with the cart was to an open 
field, which lay between the railway and the road 
running from Berlin to Spandau. Escape there 
proved to be entirely out of the question. The 
sentry was vigilant, and the presence of so many 
Englishmen close to the main road attracted the 
attention of a considerable number of passers-by, 
including several German officers. Our move- 
ments, too, may have aroused some suspicion, for 
I saw a railway official dodge from tree to tree 
on the railway embankment and watch us very 

We started a complaint that the sort of soil we 
were getting was quite unsuitable for our purpose, 
and begged the sentry to allow us to load up with 
fresh soil in a field much more quietly situated 
on the other side of the camp. The whole time, 


and I kept as much in the background 

as possible, in order that the sentry should not 
notice our absence on the return of the rest of 
the party to camp. The road to the other field 
led along the fringe of a wood at one end of the 
camp, and then, taking a sharp turn to the left, 
passed over a small wooden bridge. When we 
reached the bridge, my companion and I moved 
to the tail-end of the party, and as the men 
turned to the left to go over the bridge into the 
field, we stopped, slipped behind a small bush, 
and crouching there, were effectively concealed 
from the soldier who had gone ahead. As soon 
as the cart was out of sight, we rose and walked 
away at an easy pace in the opposite direction, 
towards the electricity works, and so on to the 
main road leading to Berlin. When we had gone 
about a hundred yards, I removed my eye-glasses, 
put on a pair of round, horn-rimmed spectacles, 
turned the white collar of a German shirt which 
I was wearing — a so-called Schiller shirt — and for 
the rest of the journey wore it outside my jacket. 
I then altered the^ shape of my hat so as to make 
it look as German as possible. In addition to this, 
I had had my hair shorn off by the camp barber, 
and looked exactly like a young German university 
student on holiday. We were enjoying the first 



snatch of freedom we had known for many months. 
The experience had all the glory and the freshness 
of a dream. Free ! 

We were walking along the main road leading 
to Berlin, still fairly close to the camp, when my 
friend whispered " Look out ! " and I saw, to my 
dismay, that the carriage which conveyed the 
German officers to and from the camp was 
approaching along the highroad. It passed us 
within a yard, but was fortunately empty, save for 
the driver, who eyed us very closely, but never- 
theless drove on. We jumped on to a tram at 
the Spandauer Bock, and while we were sitting 
at the back of the tram, passed a German corporal 
from the camp, who, to our amusement, saluted 

my companion, doubtless in the belief that E ■ 

was going to Berlin on leave. A pretty girl had 
to stand while we were sitting, and I had sternly 
to repress a desire to offer her my seat. " Remem- 
ber, you are now a German," I kept repeating to 
myself. On the way to the city we left the tram, 
caught a taxi, and drove to the centre of Berlin. 




It was some time before we could accustom our- 
selves to the feeling of being free. As I became 
more experienced in the art of escaping, the 
hunted feeling which haunts an escaped prisoner 
wore off somewhat, though it never entirely dis- 
appeared. On this first occasion, it was an ordeal 
to pass a soldier or policeman, and by no means 
easy to meet, with a steady eye, the glance of 
people who appeared to be eyeing us with sus- 
picion. At such moments, even though one may 
be able to control the movement of the eyes, and 
stare the other man out of countenance, it is not 
so easy to control one's mouth. After staring 
for a while at the other man, an awkward lump 
makes itself felt in the throat, and one has an 
overpowering desire to swallow something which 
is not there. To combat this tendency we 


smoked innumerable cigars, and found them a 
very great help. 

We left that night by an express train from 
one of the main stations in Berlin — the Friedrich- 
strasse Bahnhof — and had managed to secure two 
tickets for sleeping-berths. Our idea in doing 
so was not to travel in as great luxury as 
possible, but to avoid any possible control by 
detectives on the way ; and we thought it much 
more likely that we should be able to do so, 
and, at the same time, avoid embarrassing ques- 
tions from fellow -passengers, if we travelled by 
sleeper rather than second- or third-class. We 
were right in our conjecture. My friend, to 
whom I left all the talking on account of his 
perfect command of the language, left me in our 
compartment, and shortly afterwards came back 
and assured me that he had arranged every- 
thing satisfactorily with the guard. We travelled 
from Berlin, along the line which runs within 
about fifty yards of Ruhleben Camp, and laughed 
quietly to ourselves as we pictured the astonish- 
ment and chagrin of the authorities on their 
discovery of our escape the following day. The 
journey to Duisburg was uneventful. There we 
changed, travelled third-class to Crefeld, spent a 
little time in the town, and then bought tickets 


for Geldern, a small village which lies within an 
hour's walk of the Dutch frontier. 

We had to run in order to catch our train, and 
arrived on the platform just as it was moving out. 
It was thus impossible for us to select a suitable 
compartment, and we were bundled into a third- 
class compartment, which, much to our dismay, 
contained a Prussian railway official and, among 
other passengers, a German soldier returning on 
leave from the Eastern front. 

In Duisburg we had each bought a copy of the 
Kolnische Zeitiing. My companion was very much 
afraid that my unsatisfactory German would betray 
me if I were drawn into conversation. He im- 
mediately opened his newspaper, glanced at the 
head-lines, read on for a few moments, and then, 
leaning over to me, said to me in German — 

" The Italians are getting it hot again ! " 

I nodded and went on reading my paper. He 
then fell to discussing the war and Germany's 
prospects with the Germans in the compartment. 

Since May i, 1917, a broad belt of territory on 
the German side of the Dutch frontier has been 
declared Sperrgebiet (barred territory), and special 
passports are issued to persons authorised to travel 
there. German soldiers are on sentry duty night 
and day at all railway stations in this area, their 


duty being to examine the papers of all who pass 
through. In July 1915, however, there was no 
military guard on the station at Geldern, and all 
that we had to fear was the vigilance of the 
railway officials and the prying eyes of German 

It was about ten in the morning when we arrived 
at Geldern, and we set out to walk along the high- 
road in the direction of the village of Walbeck, 
which lies on the frontier itself. We passed quite 
a lot of soldiers, some on bicycles, some driving, 
and some on foot, greeted them cheerily when they 
eyed us with suspicion, and passed on. In the 
audacity of our plan lay our salvation. It evidently 
occurred to no one whom we met that any escaped 
prisoner would be so mad as to walk along a high- 
road leading to a frontier village, unabashed, in 
broad daylight. We skirted the village of Wal- 
beck, and, after walking about a quarter of an hour 
through the fields in a direction running parallel 
to the frontier, we found fairly good cover in a 
wood, alongside of which ran a deep country lane 
or cutting. 

There we lay among the tall fronds of bracken 
and dreamed of our home-coming. The silence of 
the countryside was unbroken save for the singing 
of the birds, the occasional bark of a dog in some 


farmyard near, and the shrill voices of children at 
play. I was very happy, and felt absolutely certain 
of success. According to my calculations we were 
about half an hour's walk from Holland and 
freedom, and I was looking eagerly forward to the 
final stretch, when we should break cover and 
start out on the interesting work of dodging the 
armed guards who patrolled the frontier. 

We were not satisfied with our cover, as it was 
not sufficiently dense to conceal us from any one 
passing by. About one o'clock, therefore, we went 
deeper into the wood prospecting for better cover, 
and eventually found what we sought in a clump of 
bushes close to one edge of the wood, on the side 
farthest from where we had hidden in the morning. 
There we lay, listening and waiting. Sometimes 
we slept peacefully, only to be wakened by the rain 
which fell from time to time on to our upturned 

After we had been in hiding for some time, my 
companion's genius for negotiation began to assert 
itself. He became restless, and did not agree with 
me that to take the last stretch as a pure adventure 
offered the best chances of success. It was simply 
a difference of opinion on a question of policy. He 
felt convinced that he was right, and I felt con- 
vinced, and still do, that I was right. At any 


other stage of the adventure, the consequences of a 
conflict of opinion might not have been so serious ; 
but at this critical stage, perfect unanimity between 
us was essential. Each man had equal interests at 
stake, and each realised that neither had a right to 
dictate any course of action to the other. His 
desire was, that we should both return to the 
village we had skirted that morning, and see what 
we could accomplish by negotiation. I protested, 
on the ground that the game already lay in our 
hands — that we had only to wait until nightfall, 
and then cautiously crawl across the belt of open 
country which lay between us and our goal, that 
we should be courting disaster if we entered a 
frontier village crowded with soldiers, and that we 
had tempted Providence sufficiently with our 
audacity up to that point. Our views were irre- 
concilable. He generously suggested that we 
should each go our own way. The offer was 
tempting in the extreme, but I recognised that it 
was largely due to his guidance, and his know- 
ledge of the country and the language, that we 
had been able to get so far in so short a time, 
and I felt I should not be playing the game if I 
deserted him at that point. He left alone for 
the village about four in the afternoon, and, at 
his request, I returned to our former hiding-place 


in the wood, in order that he might more easily 
be able to find me on his return. 

While he was away the rain came down steadily, 
and I spent most of my time cutting long fronds of 
bracken with which I endeavoured to construct a 
better hiding-place in a dry ditch. My feehng of 
absolute certainty that all would go well had given 
place to a sense of vague apprehension, and when 
E returned, looking breathless and very agi- 
tated, about three-quarters of an hour later, I felt 
convinced that the game was up. We learned later 
that we had been seen by some peasant women, 
while we were walking through the wood back to 
our first hiding-place, and the information they 
gave to the military authorities in the village led to 
our capture. A last remnant of hope lingered in 
my heart that all would still go well with us, but, 
before many minutes had passed, the rude awaken- 
ing came. A hefty German soldier dashed, appar- 
ently unarmed, through the hedge which separated 
us from the deep cutting, and came towards us. 
When about a dozen paces from us, caution got 
the upper hand, and he turned, dashed back through 
the hedge, and leaped on to the high bank on the 
other side of the road. There he joined a young 
fellow, whom we had not noticed before, and, 
unleashing a police-dog, urged it to attack us. I 


got behind a tree with the intention of climbing it, 
when I noticed that the dog, instead of attacking 
us, was running round in search of rabbits, and 
there was apparently nothing to fear from that 
source. The soldier then called out to us — 

" Who are you ? Have you identification papers ? " 
We shouted ** Yes ! " in order to gain time, and 
told him we would produce them as soon as he had 
put the dog again on leash. Eventually he did 
so, and we joined him in the lane, where my friend 
produced several German letters, but nothing that 
was able to satisfy the soldier. He said that we 
should have to go to the Army Headquarters in 
the village of Walbeck. We had not gone many 
yards before we discovered that we were practically 
surrounded by German soldiers armed with rifles, 
some of whom had rushed up on foot, others on 

It was clear that the game was up, and we 
informed them that we were civilian Englishmen 
who had escaped the day before from Ruhleben 
Camp. We were then marched into the village. 




The news of our capture had evidently aroused a 
tremendous amount of interest. Every one had 
turned out, and we had to pass through hundreds 
of old men, women, and children before we arrived 
at the village inn, where our first examination was 
to take place. 

One of the soldiers called out to a little girl of 
five as we were entering the village — 

" Na ! was habt Ihr in der Schide gclernt ? " (What 
have you learnt at school ?) 

" Goit strafe England!" the little one piped, 
much to our amusement. 

A large crowd had gathered round the principal 
inn in the centre of the village, a picturesque old 
hostelry nestling in the shade of a large chestnut- 
tree which grew in front of the main door. We 
were taken into a side-room, where we found one or 
two German officers and a man in sporting costume, 


who was seated at a table ready to take down our 
statement. The room rapidly filled with German 
soldiers, and little children flattened their noses 
against the outside window-panes in order to get a 
glimpse of the two Englishmen. 

Our cross - examiner was Baron von X., who 
lived in the neighbourhood, and had just returned 
from shooting when he was informed of our cap- 
ture. He received us courteously, and proceeded 
to ask us innumerable questions concerning the 
details of our escape, taking down our statement 
in writing as he went along. When we shrugged 
our shoulders and told him that we should pro- 
bably have to face a stiif punishment, he laughed, 
and assured us that the whole idea was absurd in 
the extreme. He said — 

" Dismiss that idea from your minds, gentlemen. 
You cannot be punished; you are interned civilians, 
and have a perfect right to escape if you see a pos- 
sibility of doing so. I myself took part in the 
Boer War against the English, was captured, and 
sent to the island of Ceylon. There I attempted 
to escape with five others in an open boat, was 
recaptured by a British destroyer, and taken back. 
I was not only not punished, but, if possible, 
treated a little better than before, except for the 
fact that a stricter guard was kept upon me." 


We told him that we should certainly have to 
face a long term of imprisonment in Berlin, but he 
laughed the idea to scorn. 

The old landlady of the inn, who was allowed 
to serve us with beer and food, came in several 
times and gazed at us most interestedly. 

At last she could restrain herself no longer, and, 
nervously fingering her apron, said — 

" Well, I have heard a lot about the English, but 
this is the first time that I have ever set eyes on 


It was evident that we interested her quite as 
much as though we were aborigines from Central 
Africa. She was a dear old soul, and in course of 
conversation told us much of her soldier son who 
was fighting on the Western front. 

We were taken in a trap from the village of 
Walbeck to the village of Straelen, a distance of 
about five miles. I sat on the back of the trap 
with a big German cavalryman, who was certainly 
one of the best fellows I have ever met in Germany. 
He seemed sincerely to regret that we had not suc- 
ceeded in escaping, and detested the part he was 
compelled to play as one of our captors. He it 
was who informed me that when captured we were 
in hiding at a point only ten minutes' walk from 
Holland and freedom. 


As we were being driven along the quiet high- 
road, we passed an isolated farmhouse, and a big lout 
of a fellow came out into the centre of the road as 
we drove past, with a girl on each arm. When he 
saw the two of us under escort, he shook his fist 
and flung curses after us. At first my guard 
noticed nothing of this, but as soon as he saw and 
heard, he flung one arm round my neck and hold- 
ing up his other hand called out to the man at the 
top of his voice — 

" Leave him alone, he is a good fellow ! " 
The village of Straelen was crowded with soldiers, 
and we were taken immediately to the Kommand- 
antur, where most of our money was taken from 
us. That money we never saw again, notwith- 
standing innumerable efforts we made in writing 
and otherwise to procure from the Berlin military 
authorities some acknowledgment of our owner- 
ship to it. A fat German lieutenant in the Kom- 
mandantur at Straelen was very abusive, and turning 
to me said — 

" You are a German ! " 

I assured him that this was not the case, that 
I was a thoroughbred Englishman, and that I 
had not a drop of German blood in my veins. 

** I don't believe it," he retorted, and turning to 
a German private standing near, who, judging from 


his appearance, had probably been a waiter in 
England in times of peace, he commanded him to 
talk to me in English, and only when I spoke to 
him so rapidly in English as to carry him off his 
feet, did he believe that he might be wrong in his 
assumption after all. My disguise must have been 
a pretty good one, particularly when one bears in 
mind that I was repeatedly assured in camp by my 
friends that I looked far too English ever to be able 
to pass as a German. 

From Straelen we were taken by train to the 
fortress of Wesel on the Rhine, where I had been 
stopped almost exactly twelve months before on 
my first attempt to get out of Germany after the 
declaration of war. 

We were first taken by our guards to the citadel 
of the fortress, and thence to the military prison in 
the centre of the town. There was a touch of what 
the Germans call, appropriately enough, Galgen- 
humor (gallows humour), in a remnant of the 
Christmas decorations in the prison office. Over 
a door through which we had to pass in order to 
get to our cells was a greeting framed in withered 
holly - leaves, bearing in large letters the word 
" Willkommen ! " (Welcome). After a few forma- 
lities we bade farewell to our guards and were 
led by a warder and soldier up dismal dungeon 


stairs to our cells. The lighting arrangements 
would not work. 

" Oh, never mind ! Shove them in in the 

Bang ! Click ! Click ! 

The door was banged to, doubly locked and 
barred. The footsteps of the warder died away 
in the distance on the stone-flagged corridor, and 
I was left in the inky darkness of my prison cell, 
with only my melancholy thoughts for company. 

Ten minutes' walk from freedom ! Ten minutes' 
walk ! 




" When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes, 
I all alone beweep my outcast state, 

And trouble deaf heaven with my brother's cries, •' 

And look upon myself, and curse my fate. ..." 

I HAD resolved to keep a smiling face and appear 
to take my disappointment light-heartedly as long 
as I remained in the presence of my captors, and 
this determination helped me even in solitude. 
Smiling had become a habit, and I was too weary, 
mentally and physically, to dwell long upon all that 
failure meant. Like a blind man, I fumbled about 
in my cell, found my straw-sack bed, and, flinging 
myself upon it, was fast asleep in a few minutes. 
I was roused from sleep by the noise of heavy 
keys turned in cell doors, the clank of ponderous 
boots on the stone corridor, and by the raucous 
voice of some one shouting at me from the door- 
way of my cell. An evil-looking warder was glar- 



ing at me, and cursing me in German with amazing 
volubility. As soon as I could open my sleepy eyes, 
I tumbled out of bed and reeled to the open door, 
only to be met by another volley of abuse — 

" Donnerwetter noch einmall Der Kerl ist noch 
nicht angezogen. Ziehen Sic sich sofort an, Sie eng- 
lischer Schweinehund, Sie." (Donnerwetter once again I 
The fellow is not dressed yet. Go and dress at 
once, you English pig-dog !) 

I drew on the garments I had forgotten, in my 
hurry to oblige, and returned to my friend the 
enemy, to receive my morning coffee and a chunk 
of dry black bread. The " coffee " was hot. 
Owing to the fact that the same enamelled bowl 
was used for each meal, for the soup as well as 
for the coffee, a film of grease floated on its 
surface. It contained neither milk nor sugar, 
but I cared nothing for such luxuries, and quite 
enjoyed my first breakfast. The door was again 
doubly locked and barred, and after I had washed 
in the enamelled bowl provided for the purpose, I 
began to take stock of my new home. 

My cell was five paces long and two and a half 
wide. A wooden camp bed, straw-sack, a stool 
and rickety wooden shelf, were the only articles 
of furniture. A tiny peep - hole in the door — 
called by German prisoners the '* Judas hole " — 


enabled the warder to observe the prisoner with- 
out being seen himself. The window was high 
and heavily barred, and so designed that the 
occupant of the cell should be unable to see any- 
thing of the outside world. Sloping boards ran 
upwards and outwards from the stone window- 
ledge, other boards joined them at the sides, and 
close-mesh iron netting on top completed the box- 
like arrangement. The only touch of nature left 
to bring comfort to the soul of the unhappy 
prisoner was a strip of blue sky seen through 
the iron netting. If the man who designed that 
cell could have lighted it and ventilated it by 
means of a crooked pipe which shut out the 
sky as well, I am certain he would have done so. 
After breakfast a brush was handed in to me, 
and five minutes allowed for cleaning the cell. 
Then I was called out, told to take my spittoon, 
washing- bowl, water- jug, and eating- bowl, and 
come out into the corridor. An attempt at con- 
versation with my friend met with a stern rebuke. 
We lined up with about a dozen German soldier 
prisoners in field-grey uniform, and were marched 
down to the yard on what I henceforward called 
" The Spittoon Parade." Each man had to wash 
his things at the pump in the centre of the yard, 
line up until all were ready, and then march back 

100 ESCAPED ! 

to his dismal cell, to remain there until the follow- 
ing morning. Each second day we had half an 
hour's exercise in the prison yard. That was the 
deadly routine. The first day, twenty-four hours 
in the cell; the second, twenty-three and a half; 
the third, twenty-four, and so on. 

Some of the German prisoners were as pale 
and haggard as corpses. One looked insane, and 
frequently grinned, stupidly and vacantly, as he 
walked alone in the yard. I began to wonder 
what offences had led to their incarceration in 
this Hell, and found myself speculating as to 
whether I, too, might . . . No! the prospect was 
too terrible for words, and I resolved that if a 
defiant cheerfulness could keep me mentally fresh, 
I would become, and remain, as defiantly cheerful 
as even my best friends could wish. I have seen 
many men lose grip and go under, but I have seen 
no one go under who has accepted captivity on 
these terms. It is, after all, a question of simple 
arithmetic, applicable not only to the miseries of 
life in captivity, but to reverses in any walk of 
life. If you worry about misfortunes, you have 
to bear your misfortunes plus your worry. Ergo, 
stop worrying, and find some way of forgetting 
your misfortunes. Subtraction instead of addi- 
tion. It is a very simple philosophy, but a very 


valuable one, as I, who have tried to live in ac- 
cordance with it, know. I derived a grim sort 
of satisfaction from the thought that " under the 
bludgeonings of fate, my head was bloody but 
unbowed." Egotistical ? Perhaps, but a man 
may be pardoned being a little self-centred when 
his only company, month after month, is himself. 

The food we received was soldiers' rations, and 
better than anything else I have had during my 

Twenty-four hours alone in a cell is a very long 
time. Try it for several days in a small bathroom, 
and see how you enjoy it. Inseparable, of course, 
from my imprisonment, was the sense of bitter 
disappointment at our failure. 

Ten minutes' walk from freedom ! 

Somehow or other, the daytime was bearable ; 
the torturing thoughts came always at twilight, 
and try as I would to forget them, they returned 
again and again. I thought of the mad joy of an 
unexpected home-coming, of my mother's happy 
smile and my father's quiet, firm grip of the hand; 
and then I pictured to myself their disappointment 
— keener even than my own. 

Ten minutes' walk! 

I thought of escape from the prison, but saw no 
means of accomplishing it. 

102 ESCAPED ! 

In one pocket I found a stump of pencil, and in 
another a few scraps of toilet paper, and, setting to 
work, wrote down all the verse and prose I had 
committed to memory in the past. Before long 
my supply ran out, and I regretted that I had not 
memorised more. Over and over again I said to 
myself — 

" I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, 
And a small cabin build there of clay and wattles made." 

It mattered nothing that I could not arise and 
go. One day I should find my Innisfree, and that 
sufficed for me. I tried to remember Kipling's 
" If," and " Gunga Din," Browning's " One who 
never turned his back, but marched breast for- 
ward," Tennyson's " Revenge," and a score of 
others, finding tremendous consolation in them 

Frequently, at a later date, after long months of 
imprisonment, I would repeat to myself Sterne's 
beautiful invocation to the Spirit of Humour. 

** Gentle Spirit of sweetest humour, who erst did 
sit upon the easy pen of my beloved Cervantes ! 
Thou who glidedst daily through his lattice, and 
turnedst the twilight of his prison into noonday 
brightness by thy presence — tingedst his little urn 
of water with Heaven-sent nectar, and all the time 


he wrote of Sancho and his master, didst cast thy 
mystic mantle o'er his withered stump, and wide 
extendedst it to all the evils of his life, — 

Turn in hither, I beseech thee ! " 

A sense of humour is indeed an invaluable asset 
to a man in solitary confinement. A mirror is 
an astonishingly companionable thing. I bought 
a small pocket-mirror as soon as I was allowed to 
make purchases. For minutes on end I used to 
gaze at the funny face my dusty cell window 
revealed to me, laughed at its unshaven cheeks 
and very much shaven head, asked it whether it 
was downhearted or not, and was immensely 
cheered when it said with decision, " No ! " 

At times I made fiery political speeches to in- 
terested bugs in my cell — and their number was 
legion — at other times I sang quietly to myself as I 
paced up and down. My life in times of peace had 
been a fairly full one, and I was grateful for a 
plenitude of happy memories on which I could 
dwell in placid contemplation. The future was 
uncertain and gloomy ; the present was vile ; only 
the past was worth a thought. 

The third day, after considerable hesitation, I 
resolved to approach the warder and ask for some- 
thing to read. He came in answer to my ring, 
accompanied by a tall sentry, who stood behind 

104 ESCAPED ! 

him in the corridor, his loaded rifle with fixed 
bayonet slung over his shoulder. 

" What do you want ? " he bellowed. 

As politely as I could I told him that I should 
like something to read. He glared at me in 

" Read ! what do you mean ? " 

" Oh, a newspaper or a book — anything. You 
have no right to treat me in this fashion. At the 
very worst, we are in remand arrest. We have 
had no trial, nor has sentence been passed 
upon us." 

Reaching out, he tapped with his hand on the 
whitewashed wall of my cell, and putting his ugly 
face uncomfortably close to mine, shouted in a 
hoarse voice, charged with all the hatred it could 

" Here are the four walls of your cell. You are 
a prisoner. Read those ! " 

Bang ! I heard the key turn twice in the lock, 
and found myself alone again. To my astonish- 
ment he returned a quarter of an hour later, and 
brought me a German " blood-and-thunder," which 
I read with great glee. He began, at first very 
sheepishly, to make amends for his brutality. He 
had been brutal and coarse to us in ways that I 
cannot describe. 


Our exercise was taken each second day in the 
prison yard with the German military prisoners. 
The yard was of irregular shape, about ten paces 
wide and thirty paces long, shut in on one side by 
a twenty-foot brick wall, and on the other by the 
high wall of the prison. We marched round and 
round at a funereal pace, for the most part with 
funereal faces, six paces from the man in front, 
and six paces from the man behind. Talking was 
strictly forbidden, but, after a little practice, I 
managed to carry on short conversations with 
the German soldier-prisoners without moving my 

While we were tramping slowly round and 
round, a German private, who had learned that 
I was an Englishman, said to me in a low voice — 

" Wartim wollen Sie uns kleinmachen ? " ("Why 
do you want to humiliate us ? ") 

I knew, of course, that by Sie he meant Great 
Britain, but there was no opportunity for a long 
polemic, and I caused him to smile by assuming 
that the pronoun Sie had specific reference to me. 

" What, / humiliate you ? " I whispered. 

He sniggered at my little joke as loudly as he 
dared, and answered — 

" No. The British people." 

When the German people realised that wc 

io6 ESCAPED ! 

meant business they became imbued with the 
belief that we were out to humiliate them — liter- 
ally, "to make them small." The question put 
to me by this simple German soldier was quite 
characteristic of the attitude of mind of many 
Germans at that period of the war. 

One morning I noticed that a part of the yard 
was in the sun, while we were tramping round 
and round in the shade. How glorious it would 
be, I was saying to myself, if only one could 
walk in the sun, when the sergeant in charge of 
the jail came into the yard and shouted to the 
warder — 

^'Lassen Sie sic in der Sonne gehenf" (Let them 
walk in the sun !) 

"Thank God," I murmured, "here's a man with 
a heart at last." 

The warder, however, understood better, and, 
going up to a number of ducks and geese, which 
were waddling about in the shade, chased them 
into the sun ! Ducks and geese were thought of — 
not men ! 

" I never saw sad men who looked 
With such a wistful eye 
Upon that little tent of blue 
Which prisoners call the sky, 
And on every fleecy cloud which passed 
In happy freedom by." 


At times, particularly at night, one had a feeling 
of waking up in a coffin to find one's self buried 

After the first five days the prison life became 
easier. The sergeant interested himself in us, 
whether because of our money or out of sheer 
kindness of heart, I do not know. We were 
allowed to purchase things from outside, and 
allowed to read and smoke. When the day came 
for our removal to the prison in Berlin, we would 
gladly have remained, preferring the hardships we 
knew to the uncertainty of the future. 

In all, we spent ten days in the Military Prison 
in Wesel — ten unforgettable days. 

The evening before our departure, the sergeant 
took us into the yard for a little exercise, and said 
to us, witFra smile — 

" There's no getting out of this place." 

As he spoke, he glanced at the smooth twenty- 
foot brick wall which stood as a barrier between us 
and the fair outside world. 

" I don't know," I said, by way of reply, and 
pointed to a narrow passage at one side of the 
prison, where the high wall ran parallel to the 
prison wall. I knew, as a practised crag-climber, 
that I could easily have got out there by the well- 
known process of " backing- up," and jokingly 

io8 ESCAPED ! 

suggested that he should allow me to try. He 
suddenly grew serious, and very soon afterwards 
found a pretext for bringing our walk to an abrupt 

The guards who took us back to Berlin were a 
corporal and a Gendarmeriewachtmeisier — a sort of 
military police - sergeant. The corporal was in 
ordinary field-grey uniform, but the gendarme was 
gorgeously attired in top-boots, fitted with jingling 
spurs, blue breeches, light-green tunic, sabre, service 
revolver, brass buttons, and a green cap. Each 
official wore suspended round his neck a heavy 
brass chain, from which hung a large brass plate 
with a number stamped upon it. The Gendarmerie- 
wachtnieister showed us that he and his comrade 
carried heavy service revolvers, and said in a loud 
voice — 

** There's no fooling with me, remember. I 
shall shoot without the least hesitation." 

The brass plates worn by our guards attracted a 
good deal of curious attention, but otherwise our 
long journey to Berlin and to prison was not very 

One incident made an irresistible appeal to my 
sense of humour. As the train drew up at the 
Zoological Gardens Station in Berhn, we caught a 
glimpse of the Zoo itself, and facing our compart- 


ment was the cage which contained the elephants. 
Fran GcndarmeriewachUneister wa-s with her husband, 
Hcrr Gendarmcricwachtmcister, and had evidently 
not visited Berlin before. She caught sight of an 
elephant and screamed. The elephant immediately 
turned round, waggled his tail and that part of an 
elephant's anatomy to which the tail is usually 
attached, and rolled out of sight round a corner. 
Fran Gcndnrmeriewachtmeister cackled more shrilly 
than ever, and Herr Gcndarmeriewachtmeister tried 
to look as dignified as ever. 

Frau Gendarmeriewachtmeister : '* And is this 
Berlin ? " 

Herr Gendarmeriewachtmeister : '' Jawohl ! " 

Fran Gendarmeriewachtmeister : "Naf das ist ein 
schoner Gruss wenn ich zum crsten Mai nach Berlin 
komme!" (Na ! That's a nice sort of greeting 
when I come to Berlin for the first time!) 

I roared with laughter. I can only excuse 
Jumbo's ungentlemanly behaviour by assuming 
that he hailed from some part of the British 
Empire, and that his feelings of patriotism over- 
came his good manners. 




The Stadt Vogtei Prison is in the heart of the 
city of BerHn, in the same enormous block of 
buildings as the Chief Police Station. In times of 
peace it is both a remand and punishment prison 
for prisoners serving sentences of not more than six 
weeks. It is entirely unsuitable in structure for 
long sentences. There are three different sections 
of the prison during war-time. One contains 
criminals undergoing punishment, who are in the 
custody of civilian warders ; the central portion 
contains German military prisoners, guarded and 
bullied by German corporals ; and the part of the 
prison where I was confined during the greater part 
of my stay there is partly a punishment prison and 
partly a place of internment. We were in the 
custody of German corporals, each corporal acting 
as warder of a floor. 

In the office of the prison we were handed over 


by our guards to the prison warders, who con- 
ducted us to single cells on the fourth floor and 
locked us in. We remained in our tiny cells in 
solitary confinement for four months and ten days. 
We were never informed of the duration, or pro- 
bable duration, of our sentence — in fact, no sentence 
was ever pronounced upon us — and we feared that 
it was the intention of the authorities to keep us in 
solitary confinement until the end of the war. 

During the first few weeks we were subjected to 
a great deal of bullying. Our floor warder was a 
vicious brute, and the non-commissioned officer in 
charge of our part of the prison, Feldwebel-Leutnant 
GiJtte, was a notorious bully. I shall never forget 
the morning after my arrival. Gotte took charge 
of the prison shortly after I was sent there from 
camp- in April 1915, and I was quite looking for- 
ward to his usual visit of inspection at 9 a.m. I 
heard the key turn in the lock, and rose to my 
feet. He was there, fat and smug and florid as 
ever, accompanied by the floor warder. 

" Na," he said, " it's you, is it?" And then he 
began to abuse me at the top of his voice, until 
the whole prison reverberated with his bellowing. 

" You have done the most idiotic thing you 
could possibly have done. You might have known 
lliiit you couldn't get far." 


I could not refrain from interjecting that I did 
get pretty far nevertheless. That did it. 

" The most idiotic thing you could possibly have 
done," he shouted, purple with rage. "You will 
be kept permanently in strict solitary confinement : 
you will not be allowed to see any one or to speak 
to a single soul." 

Bang ! 

I was again alone, and walked up and down my 
cell, clenching and unclenching my fists in my 
helpless rage. 

The same sort of bullying went on day after day, 
until I began to suspect that it was all part of a 
deliberate scheme to wear us down for the search- 
ing cross-examination which would inevitably come 
later. One day he threatened me with black cells 
and bread and water — the worst punishment in the 
German prison system — and with the withdrawal 
of every privilege for an offence which existed only 
in his imagination. As I was enjoying no privi- 
leges whatsoever, I was puzzled to know which 
privileges he intended to withdraw. We were 
allowed nothing but the abominable prison fare — 
no food parcels from home — and at times I was 
so hungry that I wondered whether it would be 
possible to eat the soap in my cell. Occasionally, 
one or two of the Englishmen in the prison who 


were not in solitary confinement — that is, had the 
run of the building from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. — managed 
to pass us a little food, and I well remember the 
rapid transition from misery to happiness occa- 
sioned by so trivial a thing as a little condensed 
• milk smeared on my black bread. 

At the end of a fortnight we were taken in a 
motor-car to Ruhleben Camp to reconstruct our 
escape under the critical eyes of the German camp 
officers. While we were doing this, adding inter- 
esting little details as they occurred to us, the 
officers commanded a corporal to walk behind us 
all the time with his hand on the butt of his service 
revolver. Then we were exhibited to our English 
fellow-prisoners, in order, I believe, that our hag- 
gard appearance, dirty clothes, and pale unshaven 
faces should act as a deterrent on other men in 
the camp who might be working on plans for 
escape. It was during our preliminary examination 
in Ruhleben that we learned of the determination 
on the part of the authorities to prove us guilty of 
a charge of bribery. 

When we returned that day to prison certain 
relaxations in the severity of our treatment were 
authorised. We were allowed to have our English 
parcels, without which we should undoubtedly 
have starved, and our hour's exercise in the day 



was extended to an hour in the morning and an 
hour in the afternoon. The solitary confinement, 
however, was kept up for over four months. 

At times when we were least prepared during 
those four months, our cell doors were flung open, 
and we were taken separately to a large cell on 
the first floor, and there subjected to a searching 
cross-examination at the hands of a clever Berlin 
barrister, who held the rank of captain in the 
service of the Army Headquarters in Berlin. My 
statement was taken down and read to me, I 
signed it, and was then taken back to my cell. 
Then came my friend's turn, the examination 
usually lasting three-quarters of an hour. We 
were then brought face to face, and had to explain 
away any apparent contradictions. We always 
succeeded, but the strain of solitary confinement, 
coupled with the ever-present fear of an interpre- 
tation of our statements which might lead to a 
sentence of two years' convict prison, was intoler- 
able. Insomnia troubled us, due, no doubt, to lack 
of exercise and fresh air and to the mental strain 
of solitary confinement. 

One afternoon my cell door was opened, and 
the warder appeared with a sheet of foolscap, pen 
and ink. 

** Instructions have come from the Kommandantur 


in Berlin that you are to write a detailed account 
of everything that happened to you from the 
moment of your escape from Ruhleben to the 
moment of your capture on the Dutch frontier, 
omitting no detail, however unimportant it may 
seem." . , 

He went away, locked and barred the door, and 

I heard him deliver the same message to E , 

in the next cell but one to mine. The trick was 
very clever. The least contradiction in our written 
statements, and all would be lost. I am sure the 
authorities in Berlin would like to know how it 
came about that two men, locked up in separate 
cells, managed to produce almost identically the 
same statement — but I am not going to tell 

The only exercise-ground in the prison was a 
dismal courtyard, the shape of a flat-iron. One 
hundred and eighty barred cell windows looked 
down into the yard. On one side the wall was 
six floors high, and on the other two sides, five 
floors high. There was no ventilation shaft, and 
very seldom a current of fresh air. From the 
cell windows of the top floor it looked very much 
like a well — a comparison which struck me with 
great force one day, when I saw a sparrow circling 
round and round in order to get out of it into the 


free fresh air. The longest walk in a straight line 
was one of thirty paces, and seventy paces took one 
round the yard. It was my only exercise-ground 
for two years and two months. The air down 
below was usually so bad, and the place so 
crowded, that I sometimes allowed weeks to go 
by without once entering the yard. One man I 
knew in the prison had not walked in it once 
during twelve months. 

The effect of such a life on the mind, nerves, and 
general physique was appalling. I met no one 
who, after a stay of several weeks, was able to 
settle down to serious study of any kind what- 
soever. The strain affected the strongest men — 
seafaring men as well as students — and we had 
all nationalities and all types. In a subsequent 
chapter I shall deal with some of the interesting 
men I met there. 




In February 1916 I became very ill, and was 
taken to the Hospital for Prisoners of War in the 
Alexandrinen Strasse, Berlin. There I remained 
for seven weeks among British, French, Belgian, 
and Russian soldier-prisoners of war. The hospital 
was really a disused dragoon barracks, dating from 
the time of Frederick the Great, barrack-rooms 
and stables having been converted into wards. As 
the doctors thought I was suffering from scarlet 
fever, I was taken immediately to an isolation 
ward, whose only other occupants were a German 
soldier-attendant and a French soldier, who was 
at the peeling stage in scarlet fever. There I 
remained for five weeks, and for the first three 
weeks lay, as weak as a new-born baby, in a 
bed infested with bugs. At the end of the third 
week ply attendant burned them out with a 

ii8 ESCAPED ! 

painter's spirit-lamp. Still, I was as happy as 
the day was long, away from the hell I hated so 

One afternoon my Frenchman, a carpenter from 
a small village near Bordeaux, roused me from a 
reverie by a series of long-drawn sighs. I rolled 
ever on my bed and saw that he was lying on 
his back, gazing in utter boredom at the white- 
washed ceiling. 

" What's the matter, Fargeot ? " I asked. 
Another deep sigh. 
**Ah, sHl y avait des mouches ! " 
I roared with laughter, and asked him if the 
bugs we had in plenty would not meet his case. 
The bugs devoted so much attention to me that 
I spent many an hour writing odes to them in 

Late one night, our German attendant returned 
from a visit he had paid to his young sick wife in 

** Anything wrong ? " I asked, seeing that he 
looked worried and depressed. 

*' Yes," he said, '* my little wife has been stand- 
ing five and a half hours in the queue to-day in 
order to get a little fat, and at the end of that 
long wait the women were driven away by Berlin 
policemen who had drawn their sabres. One 


woman, near my wife, broke down, and sobbing, 
said — 

" But my daughter must have fat. She is ill, 
and she will die if she doesn't get it." 

"Oh," said the nearest policeman brutally, "a 
few women more or less don't matter ; we have 
plenty of them." 

That was in February 1916. 

The quality of the food supplied was better than 
that given to us in prison, but hopelessly inade- 
quate to nourish men recovering from serious 
surgical operations. How the poor Russians, who 
received no food parcels at all from home, managed 
to regain strength on it, will ever remain a mystery 
to me. 

I learned from our own soldiers that the Rev. H. 
M. Williams, formerly British Chaplain in Berlin, 
was doing a wonderful work among the soldier 
prisoners of war in Germany. By sheer pertinacity 
he had wrung from the Berlin Army Authorities 
permission to visit all the camps in the country 
in which British prisoners were interned, and a 
high meed of praise is flue to him for his self- 
sacrificing work. He even found time, on one 
occasion, to visit us in prison. 

When I came out of isolation, I spent most of 
my time talking to the French and British soldiers 

120 ESCAPED ! 

who were also patients in the same hospital. Most 
of the British soldiers were "Old Contemptibles," 
and many of them gave me a most graphic account 
of their experiences at the Battle of Mons. One 
of them, by whose bedside I spent many an inter- 
esting hour, was a Scotchman belonging to the 
Dublin Fusiliers — Jock Crossley by name. Jock 
had been wounded in seven places by machine- 
gun bullets, and had to spend most of his time 
lying in bed. He has since been repatriated. 

** Mon, I mind fine how I tried in Doberitz 
Camp to get my wife to send me an English news- 
paper in my parcels, but for a long time I couldn't 
just hit on the right sort o' thing to say in my 
letters to her so that she would understand and 
the German Censor wouldn't. At last I wrote to 
her and said, quite innocent like — 

" * Dear Mary, — I wish you could let me have 
the fine times which Angus Mackenzie lets you have 
every Sunday morning.' 

" Angus Mackenzie is the newsagent in the town 
where I live in Scotland, an' by ' the fine times,' ye 
ken, I meant ' Lloyd's Weekly News.' 

" Mon, I got an awfu' letter back frae my 
wife ! " 


My petition, in which I begged to be allowed 
to go to a sanatorium for British civilians in 
Charlottenburg, was ignored, and at the end of 
the seventh week I was sent back to prison. 

There had been a change in the administration 
of the prison during my absence. Gotte had gone, 
and a young Prussian lieutenant, Block by name, 
had taken charge. He had been wounded fighting 
against the British in the early part of the war, 
and had frequently visited me in my cell while he 
was in charge of the military part of the prison 
only. He had an ungovernable temper, which 
once or twice took complete charge of him ; but, 
generally speaking, he was very considerate in his 
treatment of us, as far as his regulations would 
allow, and I am indebted to him for many cour- 
tesies. I think he sincerely regretted that we 
should be kept in such a place after we had served 
our punishment for escaping. At one time I boxed 
regularly with him once a day in one of the large 
cells, the two of us stripped to the waist, slogging 
for all we were worth, A German corporal usually 
stood there to attention, keeping time. It was an 
amusing and interesting sidelight on the European 
war — an English prisoner and a Prussian lieutenant 
boxing together in a Berlin jail. 




The Stadt Vogtei Prison in Berlin — ein miserables 
Loch (a miserable hole), as a Reichstag Deputy 
once called it — contained a queer assortment of 
prisoners. Its inmates were a constantly changing 
population during the two years and two months 
I spent there, and we had almost all nationalities 
among us. I can call to mind at the moment. 
Englishmen, Germans, Frenchmen, Belgians, Por- 
tuguese, Austrians, Poles, Russians, Caucasians, 
Finns, Danes, Dutchmen, a Canadian, Australians, 
a Jap, a Hindoo, several Siamese, Italians, Turks, 
Bulgarians, Servians, negroes, Arabs, Americans, 
Swiss, Rumanians, and Greeks. Our part of the 
prison was seldom without about two hundred 
Polish labourers. These poor fellows had, for 
the most part, been decoyed from Poland by 
German agents, who had held out to them 
splendid prospects in their own trades if they 


would only take up work in Germany. Thousands 
left Poland for Germany, deluded by these hopes, 
and on arrival there found that they were allowed 
no choice of occupation. They were compelled to 
work where the German authorities sent them — in 
coal-mines, munition-works, gasworks, on railways, 
and on farms. They were induced to sign con- 
tracts which they could neither read nor under- 
stand, and if they left their employment in order 
to better themselves, or to find work more suited 
to their training and abilities, they were punished 
on arrest, either for breach of contract, for leaving 
the town without having reported to the police, 
or for both offences. I met in that prison boys 
of thirteen and fourteen, and old men of seventy. 
I know of nothing more inhumane than the treat- 
ment of these poor Poles whom the armies of 
Hindenburg had "liberated" from the Russian 
yoke. They were looked upon and treated like 
cattle. Some remained in prison as long as six 
months. They never had soap given to them. 
Very few of them had a change of underclothing, 
and it is no exaggeration to say that they could 
have eaten three times as much food as they re- 
ceived. The quality of the food was abominable — so 
bad that even the German corporals over and over 
again described it as scandalous. Before I left, men 

124 ESCAPED ! 

were going to the prison doctor daily with some 
disease, due to malnutrition, which revealed itself 
in swollen feet and extreme emaciation. We did 
what we could to help the men from our English 
parcels, but were able to do very little. The 
sight of so much suffering, and the knowledge 
that we were helpless to alleviate it, made us 
either thoroughly callous or thoroughly melan- 
choly. Those of us who could help a little 
usually ** adopted " some sickly boy or frail old 
man, and gave him regular meals. 

One day an old Polish farmer, seventy years of 
age, whom we had fed fairly regularly, brought along 
another Pole to a friend of mine, to interpret for 
him. The old man kissed my friend's hand and 
said to him, through the interpreter — 

"You have a good heart, and after the war I 
shall give you one of my cows." 

On one occasion when I was in the crowded 
yard I saw a little chap who looked more like a 
baby than a boy. He was a tiny fellow with a 
bonny face and big, melancholy blue eyes. On 
speaking to him, I found that he spoke only 
Polish, but another Pole interpreted for me, and 
told me the usual sad story. After working on 
a farm somewhere in East Prussia, he had found 
his way to Berlin, and the police had taken him, 


not to a children's home, but to prison. I made 
him understand that he should come three times 
a day to our cell, and as long as we remained in 
prison we gave him each day three meals from 
our English parcels. Touched by the sight of 
his sadness, I strove hard to draw a smile from 
him, but on no occasion did I succeed. On the 
morning of our departure we packed up a few 
foodstuffs for him, but we were too busy to 
search for him and tell him that we were leav- 
ing. He came accidentally to our cell, and when 
he saw us packing and realised what it meant, 
broke down and sobbed as though his little heart 
would break. I tried to comfort him, but he was 
inconsolable. I see him now, going slowly along 
the prison corridor with our little parcel under 
his arm, still sobbing. I am more touched by 
the memory of that child's sufferings than I am 
affected by all the other accumulated miseries of 
my three and a half years' captivity. A few 
weeks later, when I met some one who had 
returned to camp from prison, I learned that 
the little fellow had become a lunatic. His in- 
fant mind could find no place for the senseless 
and purposeless cruelty of the German machine. 

In the early part of 1915 some of my friends 
asked the prison chaplain if he would allow them 

126 ESCAPED ! 

to attend divine service. His Christian answer 
was: ^' Der Hebe Gott ist nicht fiir die Engldnder ! " 
(God is not for the English !) 

When I heard this at a later date, and received 
confirmation of it from several reliable men, I 
sought an interview with the dear old man, and 
was quite disappointed to find that he had be- 
come more catholic in his views and received me 
quite kindly. In answer to his question as to 
how I was standing the strain of my long cap- 
tivity, I told him, with a serious face, that I 
thought I was going mad. He asked me if I 
had noticed any symptoms of lunacy, and I con-' 
jured up a few, whereupon he told me of a 
prisoner he had once had under his care, who, 
after seven years of imprisonment, had emerged 
quite sane ! 

Other occupants of the prison, apart from a 
few luckless escapers like myself, were men sus- 
pected of espionage — German criminals who, after 
being discharged from convict prisons where they 
had served long sentences, were considered too 
undesirable for the outside world, though quite 
suitable society for runaway Englishmen, profit- 
eers, men guilty of unmentionable obscenities in 
Berlin, and, finally, a dozen interesting roughs 
from Ruhleben Camp, who had been sent to 


prison by the camp authorities simply because 
they were constantly drunk and quite unmanage- 
able. When these men were not in solitary 
confinement for some offence or other, they had 
the freedom of the prison from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. 
each day. 

On one occasion two of them, whom we will 
call David and Jonathan, succeeded in persuading 
the sergeant to allow them to occupy a corner cell 
along with a nigger. They promised, almost on 
bended knees, to prove by their exemplary be- 
haviour that they merited this privilege. That 
night they succeeded in procuring a bottle of fire- 
water from some source or other, and about mid- 
night they were blind drunk. We others, locked 
up in our single cells, could hear them carousing, 
and then the inevitable happened. They came to 
blows. The nigger, frightened, began to bang with 
a piece of wood on the iron door of the cell, while 
David and Jonathan fought on. Presently two 
hefty warders rushed in, separated the two men 
by pinning their arms to their sides, and tried to 
hold them back. David made one last savage 
rush at Jonathan, with the intention, as he ad- 
mitted later, of biting off his nose, and missing,, 
his objective, tore off half Jonathan's ear. The 
nigger, picking up the blue shrivelled piece of 

128 ESCAPED ! 

ear later, handed it to Jonathan with the 
remark — 

" Does dis eah belong to you, Mistah B ? " 

Our friends took good care that prison life should 
not be wholly barren of incident. 

About midnight on New Year's Eve, 1916, when 
most of us were still lying awake in our tiny cells, 
a Cockney ship's fireman climbed up to the barred 
window of his cell, and shouted across the yard to 
one of his cronies nicknamed Bristol — 

" Brissle ! " 

No answer. 

'• I sigh, Brissle ! " 

"Wa' d'ye want?" 

** I sigh, ain't this place like a bleedin' grave- 

There was a touch of genius about the descrip- 
tion, and every Englishman's bed in the prison 
shook with laughter. 

The roughest of these men had many excellent 
qualities, and, in things that really matter, had a 
code of honour which would have done credit to 
a public schoolboy. They were frequently gener- 
ous to a fault, and although always in scrapes, 
were never known to give each other away. This 
characteristic more than once won for them the 
respect of the German soldiers who guarded us. 


The Cockney ship's fireman above mentioned 
imagined that I had helped him a little in the 
early days, and at Christmas, when his parcels 
from home had begun to come in more regularly, 
came up to my cell with a tin of apricots. 

" Look 'ere, sir. I can't eat this bleedin' stuff. 
I wish you'd take it." 

I protested, but he swore he would throw it 
away if I didn't take it. 

One of them told me how, in times of peace, 
he had deserted from the army, and then, tired of 
things, entered a recruiting-office in order to join 
up again under another name. 

"What's your name?" said the Recruiting 

" Smithson, sir," replied the would-be soldier. 

*' Hum ! Where d'ye get that name ? " 

" Bread-van, sir! " 

" Thought so," was the reply. 

He had borrowed the name from a bread-van 
which happened to be passing when he entered 
the recruiting-office. 

I read to him Kipling's " Back to the Army 
again. Sergeant," and his face lit up with wonder. 

" By God, that's just it," was his comment. 

One night one of our devil-may-care sailors in 
Ruhleben Camp escaped from the Camp, where 


130 ESCAPED ! 

he found life much too monotonous, and made 
his way into the city. He had won about four 
pounds by card-playing in the camp, and meant 
to " have a night of it." Although he was quite 
unable to speak a word of German, his wealth 
bought him the smiles of a lady in Berlin, who 
was only too eager to help him to spend it. The 
following morning he went to a caf6 for breakfast, 
and, with what remained, treated all and sundry in 
the place to drinks. Two shillings were left in his 
pocket. He took a taxi, drove to the prison gates, 
rang the bell, and gave the sentry to understand 
that he wanted to come in. The procedure was 
not at all " in accordance with regulations," and 
it was some time before he could persuade the 
sentry to do him this favour; but he insisted. 
Miracle of miracles, the Kommandantur saw the 
humour of the situation, and, after giving him a 
very light sentence, sent him back to Ruhleben. 

It was as though many of these men had walked 
straight out of * Barrack -Room Ballads' or the 
* Seven Seas.' They respected Kipling almost to 
the point of veneration. I have come to the con- 
clusion that critics who aver that Kipling does not 
understand human nature — and there are many 
such — simply do not know the types of men whom 
Kipling knows through and through. 


Two other Englishmen I met in prison were a 
commercial traveller and a man who had been a 
special photographer for one of our London news- 
papers at the Front. Both had allowed them- 
selves to be carried across the German - Swiss 
frontier into Germany in the train, and discovered 
their mistake when it was too late. 

A note of deep tragedy, however, was struck 
more than once, and I shall carry throughout life 
sad memories of some of the men I met in that 

During my first experience of prison in April 
and May, 1915, I met an Englishman who had 
been taken prisoner by the Germans in Lodz. He 
was manager there of a woollen mill, and he had 
not the least doubt that the influences which were 
at work to procure his release, and enable him to 
return to business and wife and child in Lodz, 
would be successful. I refrained from saying any- 
thing which might discourage him, though I knew 
from experience of so many similar cases that there 
was not the faintest shadow of hope of his release. 
After an internment of several weeks in the prison 
he was sent to Ruhleben. He had not been long 
there before he learned that he was doomed to 
remain in camp as long as any of the other Eng- 
lishmen. He became a lunatic, and was subse- 

132 ESCAPED ! 

quently released as unfit for military service. On 
the arrival at Southend pier of the steamer which 
conveyed him to England, he committed suicide 
by jumping overboard. 

Unutterably sad was the story of a young Finn 
I met in prison, who remained there for about 
eighteen months. When war broke out he was 
not yet twenty-one years of age, and lived with his 
parents in Helsingfors. His family had suffered 
much owing to Russian misrule, and hatred of the 
Russian regime had become an ineradicable part of 
his nature. When he learned of the outbreak of 
war between Germany and Russia, the boy left 
home without consulting his parents, and on arrival 
in Sweden volunteered at the first German con- 
sulate for service in the German army against the 
Russians. Facilities were provided for him to 
travel through Denmark to Berlin, and on arrival 
there he was at once enrolled in a volunteer regi- 
ment. He had not been long in training, however, 
when, to use his own words, ** his eyes were opened 
and he became thoroughly sick" of militarism as 
he found it in Germany. An overstrain brought 
on an internal injury of a rather serious nature, 
and he refused to allow himself to be operated 
upon in a military hospital, reahsing that the only 
desire of the German army authorities was to 


render him once more fit for military service. He 
begged to be allowed to leave the country and 
travel back to Sweden. The commander of his 
regiment argued with him, cajoled him, threatened 
him, but he was fixed in his resolve. Finding that 
there was no hope of making a German soldier of 
him, they sent him to prison to remain there with 
the other interned until the end of the war. 

He was a tall handsome fellow, with a winsome 
manner when I first met him, but became thoroughly 
depressed and melancholy as time went on. It 
was in one of his fits of depression that he told me 
his story as I have related it above. A nervous 
breakdown followed, and the dry cough of the 
consumptive began to show itself. He was sent to 
the military hospital for prisoners of war in Berlin, 
but the liberal doses of bromide of potassium which 
were doled out to him could not touch the other 
trouble, which was far too deep-seated for a physi- 
cian's care. He was sent back to prison. A further 
breakdown followed, and he was sent — I believe at 
the expense of the British Government — to a sana- 
torium for British civilians in Charlottenburg. 
From the sanatorium he found his way back to the 
hospital, and when I inquired of him from men who 
had returned to prison from hospital, I learned that 
his mind had given way and that he had been sent 

134 ESCAPED ! 

to a lunatic asylum. I was several times forced to 
the conclusion that the German authorities deliber- 
ately tried to "break" men, who, if they returned 
to a life of freedom, in full or partial possession of 
their mental faculties, might tell the truth about 
what they had seen in Germany. There is no 
shadow of doubt that this intention lies behind 
the severe prison punishment meted out to the 
Socialist minority leader, Karl Liebknecht. 

On one occasion a well-educated Russian Pole 
was sent for, to act as interpreter for two military 
prisoners. They had been brought into the mili- 
tary part of the prison, which was separated from 
ours simply by iron-netting gates. He naturally 
assumed that he would have to deal with Polish or 
Russian prisoners, but was astonished to find him- 
self confronted by two men in the green uniform 
of a German Jager regiment. He was told to ask 
the men for certain particulars, and, glancing at 
the charge-sheet, saw that they had been sent to 
prison to await trial on a charge of serious dis- 
obedience of orders at the Front. He was more 
mystified than ever. He tried them in Polish, on 
the assumption that they were perhaps German 
Poles who did not speak German ; but they did 
not understand. On speaking Russian to them, 
however, he learned that they were Finns. They 


told him that, shortly after the outbreak of 
war, German agents had appeared in Finland in 
search of recruits for an army of Finns to fight for 
the liberation of Finland, in Finland. The German 
agents had succeeded in inducing about two thou- 
sand men to volunteer. They were conveyed to 
Germany, trained for military service, and then 
sent, not to Finland, but to the front trenches on 
the Eastern front. 

** We have been constantly in the thick of the 
fighting for eighteen months," said one of them in 
words charged with all the bitterness they could 
hold. " Very few of us are left, and we protest 
emphatically against this injustice. We have been 
forced to serve under false pretences, and we refuse 
to fight any longer. Tell them they can shoot 
us if they like." 

The German prisoners in the military part of 
the prison were brutally treated by their own non- 
commissioned officers. A German corporal once 
said to me — 

" The treatment meted out to our soldiers over 
there is enough to quench the last spark of 
patriotism that is left in a man after two and a 
half years of war. When I see these poor fellows 
brought into prison, some of them with artificial 
arms and legs, for such petty offences as smoking a 

136 ESCAPED ! 

cigarette in hospital, I nearly choke with hatred of 
all that this terrible militarism means." 

I met not a few intelligent Germans who needed 
no enlightenment on the evils of their own mili- 
tary system. 

Added to the awful monotony of prison life was 
an atmosphere of petty and dirty intrigue, which 
filled one with loathing. 

The prison always contained a number of low 
characters, who would cheerfully denounce their 
best friend for five shillings. 

An officer of the Kommandantur in Berlin once 
boasted to the wife of an interned German that 
they knew every word that was uttered in the 
Stadt Vogtei Prison, and her husband had better 
beware. Sometimes it was possible to detect the 
informer, but, generally speaking, it was not. 

One Easter, permission was given to a very 
shady character, who had been in prison since the 
outbreak of war on a charge of espionage, to invite 
a number of others into his cell, for the purpose of 
a mild carousal. He invited a few others of the 
same kidney, and late that night, when they were 
all merry, he proposed that they should establish 
amongst themselves a little club, called " The Club 
of the Faithful," for mutual support after the war. 
This led, I presume, to an exchange of confidences, 


and they even went so far as to arrange to have 
cigarette-cases engraved with the motto of " The 
Club of the Faithful." The following day two 
men, who had talked more freely than was wise, 
were marched off to the Kommandantur by German 
soldiers to undergo a preliminary examination on 
a charge of espionage, based upon their utterances 
of the previous evening. The informer was sent 
to another prison very shortly afterwards, and an- 
other beautiful character of the same type took his 

The day after the demonstrations in the city of 
Berlin, occasioned by the harsh sentence passed 
upon Liebknecht, the prison was filled with about 
one hundred and fifty Germans who had partici- 
pated in them, and some of them remained there 
without trial for several weeks. 

At one time, for a long period, two inmates of 
the prison were Dr Franz Mehring, the authorised 
historian of the Social Democratic movement in 
Germany, and Dr Marschlevsky, a contributor on 
economic subjects to Vorwdrts and Die neue Zeit. 
Old Dr Mehring, who took up Liebknecht's man- 
date in the Prussian Diet after his release from 
prison, was over seventy years of age, frail, white- 
haired, and suffering from several incurable com- 
plaints. He was sent, after about six weeks' 

138 ESCAPED ! 

detention in the Stadt Vogtei Prison, to the prison 
hospital in Moabit, and released just before Christ- 
mas 1917, after Scheidemann, Haase, Ledebour, 
and others had lodged energetic protests in the 
Reichstag. They bore their imprisonment, how- 
ever, with amazing fortitude, and it is no wonder 
that Mehring, on his release, was invested with 
something of the glory of a political martyr. 

The case, however, which created the greatest 
sensation in the Reichstag debates on this subject 
was that which dealt with the imprisonment of the 
Socialist propagandist named Kliihs. Kliihs had 
been arrested on the mere suspicion of having par- 
ticipated in incendiary propaganda. No charge 
was ever preferred against him, and no attempt 
was ever made to confront him with evidence of 
any kind whatsoever, though, as a matter of fact, 
his sole crime was that of having spoken on one 
occasion at a meeting of young Socialists. He 
remained for a long time in solitary confinement, 
and was kept in prison for more than nine months 
in so-called " Preventive Arrest " (Schutzhaft), His 
son had been seriously wounded on the Eastern 
front, and, simultaneously with a request that he 
should visit his son in hospital, he received word 
from his doctor that his wife was dying. He sent 
frantic petitions to the Kommandantur in Berlin, 


praying for leave to go to her bedside, but received 
no answer. He then learned of her decease. He 
begged permission to attend the funeral. No 
answer. He finally received official permission to 
attend his wife's funeral the day after she was 

His case, and the cases of others I have men- 
tioned, led to the passing of the so-called SchutzhafU 
geseti (Law for the Regulation of Preventive 
Arrest), wherein the powers of the military authori- 
ties were defined by law. The law provided that, 
after the lapse of a certain period of time, a Ger- 
man arrested on suspicion could demand to be 
informed of the nature of the charge against 
him, and after the lapse of a longer period, the 
military authorities were bound either to release 
him or bring him up for trial before the Impe- 
rial Court-Martial. Many Military Governors flatly 
refused to comply with the provisions of this Act, 
and went on imprisoning Socialists on suspicion 
as before. I learned at a later date that the mili- 
tary authorities were dodging this Act by releasing 
men against whom they had not sufficient evidence 
to make a trial by court-martial worth while, and 
arresting them again after they had enjoyed their 
freedom for a matter of twenty-four hours or so. 
" Cat-and-mouse " tactics with a vengeance ! 

140 ESCAPED ! 

Kliihs was released after a long term of Imprison- 
ment, because the military authorities had not 
sufficient evidence against him on which to base 
an indictment before the Imperial Court-Martial. 
After his release from prison he attended, and I 
believe spoke, at a Socialist meeting, and was 
promptly seized by the military authorities and put 
into the army. Military life was too much for him 
after the hardships of his prison life, and he died a 
few weeks after donning the field-grey uniform. 

Another case, of great interest to Englishmen, 
was that of a Canadian, the Hon. Dr Henri Beland, 
who, in Sir Wilfred Laurier's short government in 
igii, was Postmaster-General in Canada. Shortly 
before the outbreak of war he married a Belgian 
lady, and took up residence in the village of 
Capellan to the north of Antwerp. He was sur- 
prised by the news of the war while on holiday in 
the Pyrenees, returned to Capellan, lived through 
the siege of Antwerp, and witnessed the entry of 
the armies of von Emmich. German officers were 
quartered in the chateau, and, relying upon their 
word that he would not be molested in any way 
whatsoever, he remained there, instead of crossing 
the Dutch frontier into Holland, which was only 
about half a mile distant. The officers who had 
given him this assurance left for service elsewhere, 


and other officers came, who chose to disregard the 
word which their colleagues had given. Dr B6land 
was arrested, and in June 1915 was taken to the 
Stadt Vogtei Prison in Berlin. 

Just before Christmas 1916, Dr B^land received 
a telegram from his doctor, informing him that his 
wife was lying seriously ill in Capellan. He had 
been distressed, up to the date of the receipt of 
this news, by letters from his family, which led 
him to believe that such an eventuality was immi- 
nent ; and he had repeatedly endeavoured to pro- 
cure from the Berlin military authorities permission 
to return to Capellan on parole, or, failing that per- 
mission, to take up residence with his wife at some 
German spa. Not one of these efforts met with suc- 
cess. He appealed to be allowed to go to Capellan 
on a brief visit, but received no answer. He then 
received urgent messages from the doctor and from 
his family, imploring him to hasten to his wife's 
bedside, as she was dying. He said one day to 
the lieutenant in charge of the prison, after he had 
received no answer to his frantic petitions — 

" Take me, lieutenant, blindfolded, if you wish. 
I want to see nothing of the state of affairs in Bel- 
gium. I only want to sec my wife before she dies." 

It is only fair to emphasise the fact that Lieu- 
tenant Block did all in his power for Dr B6land at 

142 ESCAPED ! 

this crisis, but all his efforts were in vain. Dr 
B6land was not allowed to leave the prison, even 
to attend the funeral, and on no occasion did he 
receive an explanation of this wantonly cruel treat- 
ment, or any apology whatsoever from the military 
authorities in Berlin. On three or four occasions 
he was buoyed up by the prospect of exchange and 
release to England, but on each occasion his hopes 
were dashed to the ground. 

When I left, the military authorities in Berlin 
had granted him one or two small privileges which 
somewhat alleviated the monotony of his captivity, 
and he was bearing his almost superhuman trials 
with splendid fortitude.^ 

Professor Henri Marteaux, a violinist with more 
than a European reputation, and the successor of 
Joachim in the Berlin Conservatorium of Music, 
was another inmate of the Stadt Vogtei Prison for 
about five months in the spring of igi6. His wife, 
an Alsatian lady of great beauty and intellectual 
charm, a society favourite in Berlin in times of 
peace, was imprisoned in a woman's jail in the 
Barnim Strasse for an even longer period. There 
she was compelled to live among women of the 

^ I met Dr Bi^land in London in July 1918, the day after his arrival 
in England. He had been exchanged against a well-known German, 
interned in England. 


vilest type. Professor Marteaux had with him his 
favourite violin, which had once belonged to Maria 
Theresa, and frequently, at night, he played to the 
prisoners from his cell. His music is one of the 
sweetest memories of my captivity. It was as 
precious as flowers in No Man's Land. 

A Turkish journalist, named Raschid, found his 
way into prison in 1916, and spent one hundred 
and sixty-two days in close solitary confinement. 
He used to count the days. He spoke a beautiful 
French, and he and Professor Marteaux became 
great friends, although, as far as I remember, the 
conversations which took place between them had 
usually to be carried on through the window-bars 
of their respective cells. Sometimes, as Professor 
Marteaux walked round and round the yard, poor 
Raschid would climb up to the bars of his cell 
window on the fifth floor, and look down, sadly 
smiling, into the deep well. Marteaux would catch 
sight of him, and call out with that ring of true 
sympathy which marked every word he spoke — 

"Eh bien, Monsieur Raschid, comment va-t-il 
aujoiird'hui ? " 

" Ah, comme ci, comme ^a, Monsieur le Professeur,'' 
Raschid would answer. 

At night, after we were all locked in, Marteaux 
would climb on to a stool below his window, and, 

144 ESCAPED ! 

peering through the bars, would call across the 
courtyard to Raschid — 

** Eh bien, Monsieur Raschid, qti'est qiCon pent faire 
ce soir ? " 

** Ah, Monsieur le Professeur," Raschid would 
answer, " play that strain that you played the other 

Marteaux would climb down, take up his violin, 
and the sweet strains of his precious music would 
float through his window-bars into Raschid's cell, 
and into the cells of a hundred other unhappy pri- 
soners. I have often wondered whether any prisoners 
listened dry-eyed while Marteaux played. 

Brutal and senseless in its cruelty was the decree 
issued by the Kommandantur in Berlin that Pro- 
fessor Marteaux should not be allowed to see or 
talk to his two little girls throughout the whole 
time that he spent in prison. They were charm- 
ing little girls — one nine and the other eleven years 
of age; and although they were brought by their 
aunt on several occasions to the prison gates, 
they were never allowed to speak to their father, 
nor was Professor Marteaux ever allowed to see 
them. Even when, after five months' life in the 
prison, he was released in order to be interned in 
an out-of-the-way village in Mecklenburg, he was 
forbidden to see them prior to his departure from 


Berlin, Senseless cruelties such as these, ab- 
solutely incomprehensible to the ordinary mind, 
were more than once characteristic of the attitude 
of the Kommandantur towards men interned in our 

Another occupant of one of the large cells was a 
Jewish Turkish Rabbi, who had lived long in Paris, 
and spoke French with amazing fluency. I do not 
know what was the nature of the charge preferred 
against him, but he was treated with great con- 
sideration and guarded with care. On one occasion 
he called me down to his cell, where I found him in 
a state of great excitement. He had had a quarrel 
with another wealthy Jew in the prison, and was 
anxious to clear himself in my eyes. After explain- 
ing the circumstances, he said to me, accompanying 
his words with violent gesticulations — 

*' Cest hien possible, n'est-ce-pas, Monsieur Ellison, 
que je ne sois pas millionnaire ? Maisje suis un gentle- 
man, je vous assure. J'ai une femyne et deux mat- 
tresses, et je suis un gentleman ! " Could he have 
been more convincing ! 

The absence of women and children was one of 
the hardest things to bear. When I was met in 
Holland by a number of charming Englishwomen, 
I was asked by one of them, after I had told my 


146 ESCAPED ! 

"Tell me, Mr Ellison, what were you looking 
forward to most in your life of freedom ? " 

I paused for a moment, and then said — 

"To hear an Englishwoman speak." 

** How strange I All escaped prisoners say the 
same thing." 

A burly Austrian in prison, whom no one would 
have dreamed of accusing of mawkish sentimental- 
ity, said to me once — 

" Ellison, I feel as though I could be tender to a 

Towards the end of the first year of my imprison- 
ment I smuggled in a pair of white mice, and kept 
them hidden away in my cell. A big Scotch friend 
of mine used to play with them and talk to them 
as one pets a baby in ordinary life. They increased 
too rapidly, however, and I had to get rid of them. 

The escapers were a small but interesting group, 
and, with one or two exceptions, formed a solid 
coterie in the prison. The reasons for their failure 
were very varied. Several had been arrested by 
the detectives whose work it is to demand legiti- 
mation papers of travellers in railway trains, the 
greatest ingenuity and coolness in the world being 
no use at all in such an emergency. 

C had travelled by train as far as Dusseldorf 

after his escape from the Sanatorium for British 


civilians in Charlottenburg, and went into a hat- 
shop there in order to buy a German hat. On 
entering the shop he tripped over something at the 

door, and, forgetting himself, said aloud " D n ! " 

The shopkeeper heard it, sent detectives after him, 
and he was arrested. 

H was seen eating a few Huntley & Palmer's 

biscuits in the station restaurant in Magdeburg. 

" Ach, Engldnder r' was the head-waiter's com- 
ment. He was arrested. 

Quite a few were caught in their attempt to 
climb over the high barbed-wire fences surrounding 
Ruhleben Camp, and were punished as severely 
as though they had really "had a run for their 

The way in which two of my friends were recap- 
tured was exasperating in the extreme. They were 
making for the Baltic coast, and had gone into 
hiding at dawn on the third day in a clump of lilac 
bushes. During the afternoon a German soldier 
trod on one of them while plucking lilac blossom, 
discovered the two, and marched them off to the 
nearest village. 

My friend Eric Keith, with whom I escaped from 
the Stadt Vogtei Prison at a later date, was cap- 
tured while passing through a village close to the 
frontier late at night and put into the village jail. 

148 ESCAPED ! 

On the second night he broke out of the jail byway 
of the ceiling and roof, and after a most adventur- 
ous journey on foot was captured, as he discovered 
later, on Dutch soil by civilian frontier guards. 
Whether they were Germans, or Dutchmen in the 
pay of Germany, he was never able to ascertain. 
He finally succeeded in escaping from Ruhleben 
with two others, and crossed over into Holland 
early in September 1917. 

Mosquitoes drove another from good cover in a 
dense wood to less satisfactory cover in the open, 
where he was seen by a German peasant woman 
who happened to be passing by. Information 
which she gave to German officers at a flying 
ground near by led to his arrest shortly after- 



•' If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again." 

Prison never appealed to me as a permanent 
residence. The cuisine was unsatisfactory, the 
guests were not the sort of men I should ordin- 
arily have chosen as associates, the sleeping accom- 
modation was poor, and my hosts anything but to 
my taste. An old man, meditating once in my 
hearing, on his captivity, said — 

" Yes, Ellison, I suppose this is what hell is like. 
You arc compelled to live year in and year out with 
a lot of men whom you detest, and from whom 
there is no means of escape. Hell can't be any 
worse than this." 

"Quite so," I answered; "but with this one 
difference. If I have read my Dante aright, there 
is no escape from hell. I think I shall find a way 
out of here." 

150 ESCAPED ! 

Escaping became a bad habit as time went on. 
The reading of serious books, when I could get 
access to them, became an impossibility. All my 
thoughts were concentrated on the problem of how 
to get out of prison and out of Germany. The 
prize ahead was my freedom, without which life 
was not worth living. It was a prize worth any 
risk, any hardship, and any suffering. 

Before I escaped from Ruhleben Camp in 1915, I 
faced the possibility of failure and the inevitable 
prison punishment that would follow. Both my 
friend and I had experienced the horrors of solitary 
confinement, and felt convinced that another long 
term of imprisonment would end in our becoming 
insane. When I was being conveyed to prison in 
Berlin from the Military Prison in Wesel, I re- 
membered the conversation which had led to both 
expressing the same thought, and I shuddered in- 
voluntarily at the prospect which lay before me. 
Looking back upon my prison Hfe, I am convinced 
that I was kept mentally fresh by the constant 
planning to effect my escape. 

It was my custom, in working out the details of 
an escape, to face the worst possible consequences 
beforehand. Addressing myself in an impersonal 
manner, I would say — 

" The consequences, if you resort to such and 


such means, will be, at the worst, such and such a 
punishment. A certain plan you have in mind, if it 
fails, may mean death or long imprisonment. Are 
you prepared for that ? Yes ? Then go ahead. 
No ? Then discard the plan, or abandon your 
intention to escape. Study languages, do any- 
thing rather than court a disaster you dare not 
face as cheerfully now as you would wish to when 
it comes." 

For a long time escape from the Stadt Vogtei 
Prison seemed impossible. I tried all means in my 
power, short of giving my word that I would not 
attempt to escape again, in order to get back to 
camp. One vigorously-worded petition after an- 
other, vehemently protesting against the injustice 
of our detention in prison, after we had served our 
punishment for escaping, found its way, directly or 
indirectly, to the American and Dutch Embassies. 
The Ambassadors did their best for us, but were 
met with the cynical reply that we were no longer 
in prison for punishment: we were simply interned ! 
Our petitions, addressed to the military authorities 
in Berlin, remained unanswered. Once, when I 
saw an officer from the Konmiandantur, I placed 
before him the case for our return to camp, but his 
only answer was — 

"You remain where you arc for the duration of 

152 ESCAPED ! 

the war. You will probably only escape again if 
you are sent back to camp." 

" What is your armed guard there for ? " I 
ventured to ask. 

" You remain where you are." 

One day, when the Lieutenant in charge of the 
jail was conducting me through the labyrinth of 
corridors, he said to me with a smile, as he 
caught me glancing round — 

" You find it pretty difficult to get out of this 

I smiled, and gave no reply. 

After I had occupied one of the small sixteen- 
cubic-metre cells for over a year, four of us man- 
aged to obtain permission to remove from our 
single cells into one of the large corner cells on 
the fourth floor, containing four beds and a tiny 
lavatory. An attempt to obtain a cell on the top 
floor, whence we might have escaped on to the 
roof, and thence, by means of a rope, let ourselves 
down the seventy-foot outside wall, met with no 

About the middle of October 1916, after many 
months of careful and patient planning, we made 
a determined attempt to escape. German Jews, 
masquerading in Prussian uniforms at the Kom- 
mandantur in Berlin, trying hard to be more 


Prussian than the Prussians (and succeeding toler- 
ably well), had decreed that we should be detained 
for the duration of the war in a prison which they 
regarded as escape -proof. But we had fallen in 
love with a fair maid whose name was Liberty. 
We had wooed her. We had not yet won her, 
but we were not to be denied. We were resolved 
to prove ourselves the most persistent suitors she 
had ever known, and to come up smiling after each 
rebuff and each refusal. " Love laughs at iron 
bars," we said to ourselves, and so we laughed at 
our bars and at the people who had put us behind 

Over and over again I repeated to myself those 
lines from Meredith's " Love in a Valley " : — 

" She whom I love is hard to catch and conquer — 
Hard, but O the glory of the winning were she won ! " 

British prisoners are still languishing in German 
camps and prisons ; the average German official 
has not been made more chivalrous and sports- 
manlike by three and a half years of war, and — 
the Censor is still all-powerful. All these facts 
are reasons sufficiently weighty to make it im- 
possible to give full details of this attempt to 

By a series of careful experiments we established 

154 ESCAPED ! 

a number of facts concerning the movements of the 
warders at night, the strength of the guard, and ' 
the frequency of patrols. I had also made one or 
two experiments on my own initiative, always care- 
fully avoiding any semblance of system in what 
I did, and, after discarding one scheme after the 
other on the ground of its impracticability, finally 
arrived at a plan of escape which I thought was 
workable. My friends listened somewhat sceptic- 
ally to the scheme which I outlined to them. 

Some one would have to be absent from the 
cell when the warder came round to lock the 
cell door at 7 p.m., and the warder would have 
to be bluffed into the belief that all were present. 
After a long wait in hiding, somewhere in the 
building, the man would emerge from his hiding- 
place, dodge the patrol, make certain preparations 
before releasing his chums, release them in a cer- 
tain way, and then, the four, making their way in 
stockinged feet to another part of the prison, would 
escape by a certain exit. 

" Hardly a practicable scheme," said my friends 
with a shrug of the shoulders. 

" Then let us eliminate every impracticable 
feature one by one," I replied. 

We set to work, kept our own counsel, and 
finally decided to make the attempt along the 


lines I had suggested. What preparations we 
made, and how we overcame one difficulty after 
another, make a tale whose telling must be post- 
poned until that uncertain date — after the war. 

As the plan was my own, and as I was more 
convinced of its practicability than any of my 
friends, I was given the embarrassing honour of 
putting my theories to the test. I must omit the 
narration of how I found a hiding-place, where I 
hid, how we bluffed the warder, and how I had 
planned to release my chums. 

Never shall I forget that long vigil. The prison 
was as quiet as a graveyard, the deadly silence 
being unbroken save for the noise of a spoon 
dropped at times on the floor of some cell, or 
the deep-seated cough of some sick prisoner. 

I sought some way of employing my time. My 
hiding-place was too dark for reading, so I began 
to get everything ready for the moment when I 
should want to leave. The days had seemed long 
in solitary confinement, but those six hours were 
long almost beyond endurance. I recited poetry 
to myself. I debated fiercely and cunningly with 
an imaginary adversary on all sorts of subjects. 
Once or twice, in order to kill time, I went very 
slowly round the room in order to pick up a pencil 
which lay at my elbow, and then congratulated 

156 ESCAPED ! 

myself on having successfully killed two minutes. 
At nine o'clock I made a solemn compact with 
myself that I would, under no circumstances, look 
at my watch again until half-past nine. I waited 
until I felt certain it was at least a quarter to ten, 
in order that there should be no disappointment, 
and then ventured to look at my watch. Ten 
minutes past nine ! I groaned in despair. 

Much of my time I spent in pondering over the 
details of our escape, once we were safely out of 
the prison, with Berlin behind us. I thought of 
our long tramp, night after night, to the Baltic 
coast, where we hoped to find a fishing-boat and 
row or sail across the narrow straits to Denmark. 
Should we find a boat there ? Should we be able 
to evade capture by hydroplanes or motor-boat 
patrols ? 

The warder who guarded us was a good fellow, 
but very conscientious in the performance of his 
duties. We realised that in the event of recapture 
after we had made good our escape from prison, 
the story of our escape would, on the face of it, 
seem a very improbable one ; and the warder 
would in all likelihood be charged with helping 
us to escape. To clear him afterwards, I kept 
a diary of my experiences in my place of conceal- 
ment, recording every little incident which could 


only have been observed by a man hiding in that 
particular place. It was our intention to leave 
this diary behind. The original is " somewhere 
in Germany," but, translated into English, ran 
somewhat as follows : — 

7 P.M. Unteroffizier H — locked all the doors on 
floor No. — . 

7.25 P.M. The orderly brought a letter to Mr 
M — at cell No. — , remarking, as he handed 
it to him : . . . 

8 P.M. Unteroffizier H — turned out the lights on 
floor No. — . 

9 P.M. Bell sounded in military prison. 

10 P.M. Unteroffiziere H — and D — met and 
talked, D — then walking along the corridor 
to look through the "Judas hole" in Dr 
M — 's cell, &c. 

At first I was afraid to sleep lest my heavy 
breathing should be heard by any one passing 
along the corridor. Finally, however, I became 
so sleepy that I decided to risk it. I rolled up 
my coat as a pillow, and flinging myself at full 
length on the floor, was soon fast asleep. 

I woke up shivering with cold. I had slept 
three-quarters of an hour. 

My original idea was to release my friends on 

158 ESCAPED ! 

the fourth floor, on emerging from my place of 
concealment ; but after a careful examination of 
this plan, I came to the conclusion that it would 
be better to make quite sure of the final prepara- 
tions for our escape before I did so. The danger 
of being seen and captured when passing along the 
quiet corridors was very great, and it seemed better 
that one man should be captured and punished 
rather than four. In the event of my meeting a 
patrol, I promised my friends to make so much 
noise that they would receive warning and have 
an opportunity of hiding anything which might 
incriminate them. 

As the strain of waiting became less and less 
bearable, the coward in me kept reiterating — 

" Why not go now ? Half-past eleven will do 
quite as well as quarter to two. And don't 
trouble about the preliminary preparations. You 
have done enough. Everything is sure to go as 
you have planned it. You are taking an abso- 
lutely unnecessary risk in making the double 

Half-past one came at last. Only another fifteen 
minutes — nine hundred seconds. I put out my 
head to reconnoitre, only to draw it in again 
quickly and crouch, hardly daring to breathe, 
behind a door. Footsteps were audible along an 


adjacent corridor. Was the corporal coming to 
arrest me ? 

I listened, listened, listened. 

He came closer and closer, passed on, and I 
heard his footsteps die away in the distance. After 
the lapse of a few minutes he returned. The next 
ten minutes I remained undisturbed, but my heart 
was beating uncomfortably quickly. 

The moment came at last. I cautiously emerged 
from my hiding-place, and in passing through a 
narrow aperture stuck fast ! The thought passed 
like a flash through my mind that the corporal, 
whom I had heard twice already, might pass at 
any moment. Something shook with an ominous 
rattle in the deadly silence of the prison as I freed 
myself, and once in the corridor, I darted past an 
opening through which I could be seen from an- 
other part of the prison. Feeling like a man who 
had just committed murder, I backed into the door- 
way of an unoccupied cell for a moment, and then, 
as soon as I was breathing regularly again, slipped 
my slippers into my pockets and slunk along the 
corridor towards my first objective. 

In descending a long flight of stairs I paused 
twice, thinking I heard a noise on the floor above 
me, but the glare of an incandescent light on the 
gallery dazzled my eyes, and it was a few seconds 

i6o ESCAPED ! 

before I could see clearly. Apparently no one was 
there, and I went on. I should impute this to the 
state of nervous tension in which I found myself 
at the moment, were it not for the fact that a 
friend of ours, who was cognisant of our plans, was 
unable to sleep that night, and in his cell on that 
particular floor heard the two noises at exactly the 
same time. 

Even my stockinged feet seemed to make a loud 
noise in the unnatural silence of the prison. 

I reached my objective at last, A glare of light 
in the basement below reminded me of the pres- 
ence of the corporal on duty at the main entrance. 
He was armed, I knew, with a Browning revolver, 
and on no account must he hear me. 

At that moment I saw something which filled me 
with dismay. I was nonplussed. A certain some- 
thing was not as I expected to find it, and the 
change spelled defeat — defeat at the very last 
moment in sight of freedom. What could pos- 
sibly be the purpose of the change ? Were our 
plans known ? Were we in a carefully-laid trap ? 
Perhaps I was being watched at that very moment. 
All these thoughts passed in a few seconds through 
my mind, and I glanced hurriedly round to find 
to my immense relief that the corridors were 


There was nothing left for me to do but hasten 
to our cell and warn my friends. I darted up the 
steps, paused at the head of each flight to see if 
the corridor leading into the Military Prison were 
clear, and finally reached our cell on the fourth 
floor. The warder slept next door to us, but 
although I made a good deal of noise in opening 
the door, I succeeded in doing so without awaken- 
ing him. Once inside, I hurriedly explained the 
situation to my three friends, and we set about to 
hide all traces of our preparations for the escape. 

The following morning when the warder came 
round to open the door, he found it already open. 
He was astonished, and looked in to see if the 
birds had flown. I was washing at the time. 

"Was the door open?" he asked in astonish- 

"Yes," I said, looking at him quite innocently. 
" I can't understand it at all. Last night I was 
aroused from sleep, about one or two o'clock in 
the morning, by the noise of some one opening the 
door. I can only assume that it was some warder, 
perhaps a little bit tipsy, who wanted to get to the 
corresponding cell on the floor above or the floor 
below, and after opening our cell door discovered 
his mistake. I was too sleepy to be able to recog- 
nise him. He went away, and when we got up 


i62 ESCAPED ! 

this morning we found the door open. I can't 
understand it at all." 

He passed on, and that was the last we heard of 
the incident from any official source, though we 
lived in fear and trembling for many days. 

The strain on my friends as well as on me had 
been a heavy one, and we needed a rest before we 
set to work on fresh plans. 




" Sam," said Mr Pickwick, after a little hesitation : " listen to what 
I am going to say, Sam." 

"Cert'nly, sir," rejoined Mr Weller ; " fire away, sir." 

" I have felt from the first, Sam," said Mr Pickwick with much 
solemnity, "that this is not the place to bring a young man to." 

•' Nor an old un either, sir," observed Mr Weller. 

"You're quite right, Sam," said Mr Pickwick. . . . " It is better 
for those young men, in every point of view, that they should not 
remain here." 

That is how Mr Pickwick and Sam Weller felt 
about the Fleet Prison, and that is exactly how 
I felt, as time went on, about the Stadt Vogtei 
Prison in Berlin. The prison was most emphatically 
not the place to bring a young man to, and it was 
better, I felt, in every point of view, that I should 
not remain there. 

We had failed, it is true, in our attempt to get 
out, but if we had done nothing else, we had at any 
rate demonstrated the practicability of our theory. 

i64 ESCAPED ! 

The prison was not escape-proof. So much was 

As winter was approaching, it behoved us to set 
to work as soon as possible on fresh plans. The 
winters in Germany are severe, and we felt that it 
would be courting disaster to set out, in very cold 
weather, on an escape which might involve much 
lying out in the open. To be seen during the 
day in the danger zone near the frontier would be 
fatal to success, and, in view of the measures which 
were being taken by the German military and 
police authorities to recapture escapers, it would 
be equally fatal to leave the train at a station suffi- 
ciently close to the frontier to enable us to cross 
the same night. * 

We abandoned one scheme after the other on 
the ground of its impracticability. 

One afternoon I was coming up the wearisome 
flights of stairs which led up to our cell on the 
fourth floor, when I was accosted in a furtive 

fashion by a man, S . He was a queer 

fellow, an engineer by profession, and as far as 
nationality was concerned an out and out cos- 
mopolitan. Interned as an Englishman, he had 
been brought to the prison from Ruhleben Camp 
on some charge or other, and had been frequently 
heard to say that he was determined to escape. 


He had lived a long time in South Africa, 
Belgium, and Germany, spoke excellent German, 
fair Flemish, indifferent French, and abominable 
English. I had known for some time that he 
wished to see me, but I had deliberately avoided 
meeting him, because I doubted the sincerity of 
his desire to escape, and, in any event, was 
pledged to my friends. On this particular occa- 
sion, however, there was no escape from him, and, 
impelled too by curiosity as to what his plans 
might be, I followed him into his cell. I soon 
came to the conclusion that his desire to escape 
was genuine. There was the prospect before him 
of a long prison sentence, and he was bent upon 
cheating the police of their prey. I listened as he 
unfolded his schemes, talking little myself, except 
occasionally to drop a word of criticism or ask a 

When he had finished I told him that I thought 
his scheme unsound, and gave my reasons. He 
shrugged his shoulders and sat very disconsolately 
on his stool, with his hands spread out on his 

" Well, what do you think is the best plan ? 
Have you a better idea ? " he asked. 

With very little seriousness in my words I 
said — 

i66 ESCAPED ! 

*' Yes, I think I have. Find some way of get- 
ting out of the front door, out of the main exit." 

He grew serious. We discussed possibilities for 
a while, and then I left him. 

Although I had made the suggestion with a 
serious face, I meant it mainly as a joke ; but the 
idea struck root in his ingenious mind, and it was 
through the main door that we escaped from the 
prison about three weeks later. 

In the narration of this escape I am free to give 
fairly full details of what took place, partly owing 
to the fact that all who participated in it are now in 
safety, thanks either to subsequent escape or re- 
lease, and also because the escape was undertaken 
in such a way that the German authorities learned 
very soon afterwards the lines on which we had 
worked. Conditions in the prison were changed 
immediately after our escape was discovered, and 
steps were taken to cut off the main exit for ever 
afterwards as a possible avenue of escape. The 
interned were no longer permitted to use the yard 
at any time from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. when not in soli- 
tary confinement, but were passed in by the sentry 
at stated times, the yard door being kept locked by 

All the courtyards in the prison are inside the 
huge block of buildings. There is no wall fencing 


in the prison from the street. One steps at once 
from the street into the gloom of the jail through 
heavy oaken doors. The first step takes one into a 
sort of vestibule. Facing the outer doors, inside 
the vestibule, are other oaken doors leading into 
the exercise-yard for our part of the prison. To 
the left of the entrance are tv^^o steps, and then a 
corridor not more than twenty paces in length 
leading into the administrative office. The office 
is used by the lieutenant, sergeant, warders, and 
corporals who guard the prisoners. To the right 
of the entrance is another corridor, but in our time 
the door leading into it from the vestibule was 
usually closed and locked. Along the two corri- 
dors mentioned, were, on the one side, heavily 
barred non-transparent windows giving on to the 
Dircksen Strasse, and on the other side the doors 
of cells on the ground floor. The third cell along 
the corridor to the left of the entrance was the 
porter's cell, where a German corporal armed with 
bayonet and Browning revolver was kept on guard 
day and night. After our escape the first cell was 
made the porter's cell, and a special window was 
, built into the wall, so that when fitted with an 
ingenious arrangement of mirrors the sentry could 
see at once if any one attempted to open the main 
door. Each time we escaped quite a lot of Prus- 

i68 ESCAPED ! 

sian ofBcials were kept busy trying to catch us, and, 
when they had locked us up again, trying to devise 
ways and means of preventing another attempt. I 
suppose it all belonged to the conduct of war, and 
that we may have been " doing our bit " after all, 
"tying up" and annoying an infinitesimal part of 
the Kaiser's army for a day or two ! 

From the description I have given of the prison 
inside the main gate, it will be obvious that in 
attempting to open the main door certain risks 
would have to be faced. There would always be 
the possibility of being seen by the sentry in the 
cell close to the main gate. There was the danger 
of persons coming from the yard into the vestibule. 
There was the risk of the door of the administra- 
tive office — twenty paces along the straight corridor 
— being opened, when all would be lost, owing to 
the fact that a German corporal, and frequently 
the lieutenant in charge of the jail, sat at their 
desks in such a position as to command an un- 
interrupted view of the main entrance. At any 
moment the door on the right-hand side of the 
main gate, the one leading into the right-hand 
portion of the prison, might be opened by a warder 
passing through ; and finally, there came the risk 
— against which all the forethought in the world 
would not enable us to guard — of a transport of 


prisoners arriving at the door at the very moment 
of our escape. To a certain extent, by means of a 
careful disposition of forces, and by a rehearsal of 
the right sort of story to tell, in the event of being 
surprised before we had actually opened the door, 
we thought it possible to guard against all risks 
except the last. There we should have to take a 
sporting chance. 

One afternoon, when I entered our cell after an 
aimless walk through the smelly, monotonous gal- 
leries, I was accosted by one of my cell com- 
panions, who said to me — 

" G has been here to see you, and would 

like you to go down to his cell before locking-up 
time, as he has some sketches he would like to 
show you." 

I smiled, and my friend smiled. G had 

escaped some time before from Ruhleben Camp, 

along with his friend C , and, possessing the 

two invaluable assets, from an escaper's point of 
view, of a perfect command of the language, and 
a thorough knowledge of the country and the 
ways of the people, they succeeded in reaching 
the Swiss frontier, passed over during the day, 
but unfortunately, unwittingly walked back into 
Germany, and were arrested by two German 
sentries. They had not taken into account that 


they had crossed the German-Swiss frontier St a 
point where a narrow tongue of Swiss territory 
runs into Germany. They had walked into free- 
dom on one side of the tongue and back into 
bondage on the other side. He and his friend 
were charged, after capture, with having attempted 
to bribe the German guards who accompanied 
them from the Swiss frontier to the Stadt Vogtei 
Prison in Berhn, and both men, I knew, were 
eager to avoid the long term of imprisonment 
which would surely be the consequence of con- 
viction in the Berlin Police Court. At a later 

date, C , G 's companion — after G had 

made good his escape — was tried on a charge of 
attempted bribery, and sentenced to six months' 
imprisonment. He showed me a copy of the 
judgment, in which the judge who had tried 
the case had put his signature to the following 
astounding sentence : — 

" It must not be overlooked that the crime com- 
mitted by the defendant is a direct consequence 
of his internment, but it must also be borne in 
mind that he belongs to that nation which is 
responsible for this war, and an offence of this 
character must be proceeded against with the very 
utmost severity of the law (muss mit der unbedingt- 
esten Schroffheit der Gesetze entgegengetreten werden)." 


C , who had lived thirty-five years in Ger- 
many, had been decidedly pro - German in his 
sympathies for some time after the outbreak of 
war, but if he had not become anti-German before 
the date of his trial, he certainly swung round 
when he found himself face to face with so wicked 
a mockery of the very elements of justice. 

I say that I smiled when I heard that G 

had been to see me and wished to show me 
sketches. I went down to his cell, and had not 
been in conversation with him long before I 
learned that he had certain proposals to make 
to me regarding escape from the prison. He said 

that three, including S , had decided to escape 

through the main door, that a duplicate key was 
almost ready, and all that remained to be done 
before the night of the escape was to make per- 
fectly sure that the key would fit. While the 
stage rehearsals were going on, one man was to 
hold the door leading from the exercise-yard into 
the vestibule, in order that no one should come 
in from that direction. Two others were to stand 
to the left of the main door on the two steps 
leading into the corridor, at the end of which 
was the administrative office, and were to indulge 
in casual conversation in a nonchalant fashion, 
drowning any noise the key might make when 

172 ESCAPED ! 

turned in the lock, and so prevent the suspicions 
of the sentry, in his cell close by, being aroused. 
They were a man short, and I was asked whether 
I would undertake to help them with the rehear- 
sals, and also on their real escape, by holding the 
door leading to the vestibule from the exercise- 
yard. At that stage it was not suggested that I 
should become one of the escaping party. My 
functions were simply to hold the door, and as 
soon as the three had escaped, rush upstairs to 
my cell. I smiled at so naive a request, by ac- 
ceding to which I should be running all the risks 
and enjoying precious little of the fun. I told 
him so, whereupon he invited me to come with 
them. We discussed plans in full detail, and I 
finally obtained permission to co-opt my friend 
Eric Keith, to whom I was pledged. 



A few crowded hours of glorious life. 

Keith and I did not definitely decide to escape 
with the three until the last moment, though we 
made all necessary preparations for such an 
eventuality, and, having been taken fully into 
confidence, we felt it only right to volunteer to 
help them in trying the key. 

We had some amusing and rather exciting 

rehearsals. S was the man who had had the 

key made, and to him fell the honour of testing it. 

G , Keith, and I stood on the steps and talked 

in as nonchalant a fashion as we could, while 
the fifth man held the other door. 

S , doubtless spurred on by his fear of ap- 
proaching punishment, was very daring but very 
excitable, and throughout the series of rehearsals 
in which we participated we were never quite sure 

174 ESCAPED ! 

whether the key was a misfit, or whether he had 
failed to make the key turn in the lock because 
of the trembling of his hands. I have often smiled 
since at the recollection of how he would turn away 
from the door and follow us upstairs, muttering 
in his queer English under his breath — 

" 'E will go ! 'E will go ! I know 'e will go," 
meaning that the key would eventually fit. 

After three unsuccessful tests, we hit upon the 
idea of covering the wards of the key with a thin 
film of candle-wax, in order that when the key 
was turned in the lock any obstacle it met would 
leave the imprint of its shape on the film of wax. 
That portion of the key had then simply to be 
filed away. 

The fourth test was successful. We did not 
escape that night, because certain other prepara- 
tions were not yet complete. We met in many 
places for the purpose of discussing plans, and 
finally decided to make the attempt between half- 
past five and six, on the evening of the i6th of 
November igi6. 

That day, about a quarter of an hour before 
our rendezvous with our fellow-conspirators in the 
exercise-yard, Keith and I decided that we would 
join the rest in escaping from the prison, and then, 
in all likelihood, endeavour to escape from the 


country on our own initiative. We put on our 
warmest overcoats, and, as we were stuffing into 
our pockets certain impedimenta we should require 
on the way, Keith looked at me and said — 

" I suppose you are not overlooking the fact 
that we may both be dead men within a quarter 
of an hour ? " 

I nodded. I guessed that he was referring to 
the possibility of our being shot by the sentry at 
the very moment of passing through the door, or 
crossing the street. 

It was about half-past five in the evening, and 
already dark when we entered the yard. We 
found our fellow-conspirators walking round and 
round the narrow confine — less than seventy paces 
round its outer edge — with a most hang-dog look, 
which would have been intensely amusing had not 
the whole matter been too serious for laughter. 
We postponed the laugh for the time being. We 
joined them once or twice, when whispered con- 
sultations took place. 

Our first move on arriving in the yard was to 
ascertain who was the corporal on duty inside the 
main entrance. We saw to our dismay that he 
was a German corporal, named Behnert, who, we 
knew, had insisted upon being furnished with a 
Browning revolver if he accepted sentry duty there, 

176 ESCAPED ! 

and he had boasted on one occasion that he would 
shoot dead on the spot any man whom he found 
trying to escape through the main door. I confess 
that this made me feel very uncomfortable, and I 

think all my confederates, except S , who was 

astoundingly determined, felt that we were run- 
ning enough risks already without facing this 
additional and very grave one. S 's deter- 
mination, however, made us feel ashamed of our 
nervousness, and with some misgivings we decided 
to carry on. During the suspense of waiting until 
the coast was clear, I candidly confess that I did 
not feel as cool as the proverbial cucumber. The 
really trying part of an adventure of this kind is 
not the strain of doing things, but the nerve-trying 
ordeal of waiting to do things. 

The yard was crowded when we entered, but 
shortly afterwards the cry of " Essenholen ! " rang 
through the building, and most of the Poles left 
in order to receive the prison skilly in their cells. 
We waited until we were almost alone in the yard. 
Then one of our number opened the door leading 
into the vestibule, in order to reconnoitre and see 
that the coast was clear. Evidently the vestibule 
was empty, for he signalled to the rest to follow. 

Once inside the vestibule, Keith, G , and I took 

up our posts and started a conversation, with a view, 


as I have said above, of shielding S from any 

one looking down the corridor from the office, and 
also with the intention of drowning the sound of 
the key being turned in the lock. Another man 
held the door leading from the yard. Keith and 
I had our suspicions aroused by the presence of 
a sixth man, as apparently a passive spectator. 
This man, I knew, was an interned German, who 
had been running a gambling-hell in Berlin which 
had shortly before been raided by the police. It 

was too late, however, to make any protest. S 

had already inserted the key in the lock. We 
waited and watched, our nerves tense with excite- 
ment. The key would not turn. There was no 
time for another trial. We dared not linger longer, 
and followed him back into the yard. Keith and 
I charged him with a breach of faith in admitting 
a sixth man without having first secured our con- 
sent, but he assured us that the man was all right, 
and in any case had not the intention of leaving 
Berlin after his escape from the prison. As to 
his failure to open the door, he thought that in 
the excitement of the moment he had put in the 
shank crookedly, though he swore that the key 
would fit. 

" 'E will go ! I know 'e will go ! " 

We fell to pacing the yard again, for we had 


178 ESCAPED ! 

become ill at ease, and our minds were filled with 
a vague fear that our failure to open the door at 
the crucial moment might perhaps be an omen of 
approaching disaster. In other words, it is just 
possible that we had a touch of "cold feet." We 
had had too much prison to be in first-class 
escaping condition. 

Presently one of our number looked again into 
the vestibule, and came back with an expression 
of undisguised disgust on his face. 

"The soldiers have just brought in the food for 
the remand prisoners in the military part of the 
prison, and their cart fills the vestibule." 

" That's bad I They will not take the cart away 
until well after locking-up time, and they usually 
leave a sentry beside it," I said. " It seems as 
though escape is out of the question to-night." 

S left us in order to reconnoitre. 

He came back and said, in an excited whisper — 

" Come on ! Dere's no soldier dere. De cart 
was up against de door, but I have shoved him 
back. Dere's room to get out now. Come on." 

Away we went once more into the vestibule and 

took our appointed places. S glanced round 

before he put the key into the lock. The coast 
was clear. While he was opening the door the 
Lieutenant's orderly passed into the office, but we 


were covering S and he noticed nothing un- 
usual. We were close to the sentry's cell, but 
he did not stir. Perhaps our casual conversation 
served, as we intended it should, to drown the 
noise made by the turning of the key in the 

Wonder of wonders, the door opened ! S 

swiftly withdrew the key, and without glancing 
round slipped out into the street. We followed, 
one by one, Keith and I coming last. 

The arrangement had been that we should on no 
account run lest we should arouse the suspicions of 
any one passing by, but for a second or two we all 
clean forgot the arrangement and ran. Happily, 
the street was fairly empty. Thirty or forty paces 
to the left of the exit was a side street. All, except 
Keith and me, made for the street in order to jump 
on to the first tram-car. We, however, had decided 
to cut adrift from the rest, and slowing down, we 
crossed the street, trying hard to walk as uncon- 
cernedly as though we had never known the inside 
of a jail. 

It was a queer feeling that came over one. It 
seemed beyond belief that we had at last succeeded 
in escaping from the hated place, and every second 
we were conscious that a bullet might hit us square 
between the shoulder-blades. Crossing the Dirck- 

i8o ESCAPED ! 

sen Strasse diagonally to the left, we came to a 
railway arch and passed through, feeling a good 
deal easier, though conscious still that we were 
not yet safe from pursuit. Only when we had 
turned round two other corners did we feel any 
real relief from the great tension. By that time 
we were lost. Neither of us knew Berlin well, but 
we wandered on, conscious of a tremor as we passed 
a policeman, fearing lest he should ask for our 
military papers. Before long we found ourselves 
in the famous Unter den Linden near the Dom, 
and, as we discovered later, passed quite close by 
the Berlin Kommandantur. 




We had arranged a rendezvous with S and 

G in the Wilhelins Hallen Restaurant, near 

the Zoological Gardens Station, and, after inquiry 
from several people, we managed to find a tram 
which took us there. It was late at night, and we 
did not see a great deal of street life in Berlin. On 
arrival at the restaurant, which was quite a fashion- 
able one, we found our two confederates waiting 
for us, and sat down to drink beer, smoke cigarettes, 

and discuss plans. S had in his possession a 

receipt for some very necessary articles of ours 
which had somehow or other found their way from 
prison to a certain place in Berlin. We here made 
the fatal error of trusting our accomplice to too 
great an extent. He suggested that we should 
meet again at ten in the Cafe Josiy, opposite 
the Wilhelms Hallen Restaurant, and said that 
he would arrange in the meantime to find us 

i82 ESCAPED ! 

quarters for the night. We had no papers, and 
therefore thought it unwise in the extreme to 
endeavour to procure a room in any hotel. In 
the meantime Keith and I were to go off, before 
the shops closed, to make certain necessary pur- 
chases for our final tramp to the frontier. We left, 
and went straight to a kind of Harrod's or Self- 
ridge's — the Kaufhaus des Westens — in one of the 
principal thoroughfares of Berlin, the Tauenfzien- 
strasse, and there bought such things as ruck- 
sacks, water-bottles, and two very shoddy-looking 
sleeping sacks. The latter, we had decided, were 
absolutely essential, if our plans involved our spend- 
ing one day or more lying out in the open. 

The weather was bitterly cold, and it seemed 
likely that we should have snow. While we were 
making these purchases from a shopgirl, on one of 
the upper floors, a shopwalker came along and 
addressed us. 

" These things going to the Front, gentlemen ? " 
he inquired quite affably. 

" Yes," said my friend, who spoke perfect Ger- 
man. "As a matter of fact, we are off soon to 
Roumania." (We had heard of the big German 
offensive against Roumania which was taking place 
just about that time.) 


" There, at any rate," added Keith, " we are 

making rapid progress." 

" Yes," said the shopwalker, with an eloquent 

shrug of the shoulders and a most sad intonation ; 

** but the d d English ! Every time we come 

up against them, things seem to go wrong." 
We agreed, of course, that the English were a 

particularly obnoxious people. Our friend the 

enemy seemed to be thoroughly weary of the war. 

We did not spend too much time in conversation 

with him. 

We made no attempt to buy food, because we 
thought we should have sufficient in the parcel we 
hoped to procure with the receipt we should get 

from S . We bought a large, cheap suit-case, 

big enough to contain all our purchases, and went 
from the Kaufhaus des Westens direct to the Zoo- 
logical Gardens Station, in order to deposit our 
Jugg3-ge there and call for it later in the evening. 
Keith took charge of the receipt. About nine 

o'clock we accidentally met S and G in 

front of the Cafe Josty, and reminded them of the 
appointment in the caf6 at ten o'clock. They 
promised to be there. 

We spent some time walking about the streets 
trying to kill time, but finding things rather mono- 

i84 ESCAPED ! 

tonous we went into the cafe somewhat earlier than 
we had intended, and, ordering two cups of coffee, 
which we suspected was brewed from acorns and was 
served without milk or sugar, we sat down at a table 
in the midst of perhaps a score of others who were 
seated around us, smoked cigarettes, and read the 
German illustrated papers. My friend left me in 
order to have a wash, and the lavatory attendant 
with whom he entered into conversation said — ' 

" You are not a German ?" 

My friend looked at him, and said indignantly — 

" You would think I was if you saw the 
wound in my thigh which I received at the 

I visited this cafe on my last successful escape 
from Germany, and was interested to notice that 
* The Daily Telegraph ' — about four days old — was 
amongst the newspapers stocked by the proprietors 
for the use of customers. 

At ten o'clock no signs of G and S . 

We waited until eleven, and still they did not 
come. When they had not put in an appearance 
at half-past eleven we came to the conclusion that 
it was time to make a move, and felt justified in 
assuming that they would not come. When we 
left the cafe we felt very disconsolate. The parcel 


for which S held the receipt contained a 

number of articles in the way of dripping, ship's 
biscuits, and warm underclothing, which were as 
near being absolutely essential as anything could 
be, and there was no prospect whatsoever of being 
able to replace them. 

In the first place, our funds were not large 
enough, and we had hoped to be able to purchase 
for me, out of the money we had, a pair of strong 
walking-boots, as I had left the prison in a thin 
pair, which were very uncomfortable. There was 
no possibility of buying these if the money had to 
be spent on replacing the articles we had lost. 
From facts we learned later, there is very little 

doubt that S had not played the game. We 

wandered about the street in front of the caf6 for 
some time, before we abandoned hope of meeting 
them, imagining that they would probably arrive 
later than they had promised. Finally, we aban- 
doned aJl hope, and, very downhearted, went across 
to the station, in order to get our suit-case and 
precious articles for the journey from the left- 
luggage office. When we arrived there, we found 
to our consternation that Keith had lost the 

While we were standing in front of the counter. 

i86 • ESCAPED! 

and while Keith was searching through all his 
pockets for the receipt, a man, who I am absolutely 
certain was a detective, came and rubbed shoulders 
with us, and intently watched what was going on. 
Seeing that our prison was next door to the chief 
police station in Berlin, we had had very many 
opportunities of getting to know the detective type, 
and there was no doubt whatever, in the mind of 
either of us, that this man was one. As a matter 
of fact, we learned, after our recapture, that de- 
tectives had been placed on the main stations in 
Berlin within an hour of our escape, with a view to 
preventing our departure from the city. 

Keith, conscious that he was being watched, 
made a display of a document, furnished with a 
Prussian official stamp which he carried in his 
pocket-book, and I said to him in German in as 
matter-of-fact a manner as possible — 

" You are unable to find the ticket — what ? " 

He answered in German — 

** Yes ; I am afraid I have lost it." 

To our immense relief the detective turned away, 
strolled to the counter to watch other people, and 
then moved about, inquisitively observing the 
movements of persons passing to and fro in the 
crowded hall. 


We got out into the street as quickly as possible, 
in order to discuss the serious state of affairs. It 
was close upon midnight. It seemed futile to 
go to a hotel, without luggage and without papers ; 
and in view of so many disappointing occurrences 
at the very outset of our adventures, we felt that 
we were doomed to failure at the very beginning. 
While we were wondering where we could possibly 
spend the night, I remembered the name and 
address of an unpretentious hotel, where I had 
once stayed in times of peace. We drove there in 
a cab, having decided that we would say we had 
come from Elberfeld or Hannover, and that we had 
had the misfortune to lose our luggage, which 
contained our identification papers. 

" Full up! " was the night porter's reply on our 
arrival there. 

The cabby, however, at our request drove us to 
another quiet hotel of the same class, and there 
the night porter informed us we could have a room, 
though he listened very suspiciously to our story of 
lost luggage and lost papers. He was inquisitive 
in the extreme, and when he had left our room, we 
looked at each other, and agreed that we should 
be very fortunate if we managed to leave the hotel 
without being arrested as suspected characters. 

i88 ESCAPED ! 

Still, in for a penny in for a pound. There was 
nothing for it but to make the best of things. 

After our prison beds, the clean white sheets and 
eider-downs were a wonderful treat, and we both 
slept well. We knew that it was the practice of 
the Berlin police to inspect hotel registers at eight 
o'clock each morning, and make inquiries about 
the different guests. We therefore arranged to be 
called early, on the pretext that we had to leave by 
train from a certain station. We took the pre- 
caution of giving the name of a station in quite 
a different part of the town from the station from 
which we actually intended to leave. We left the 
hotel about half-past seven in the morning, and 
after having written fictitious names and addresses 
in the hotel register, had a short conversation with 
the landlady, who asked us point-blank whether 
we were foreigners or not. We denied the horrid 
imputation, and assured her that we were German 
business men who had come on business to Berlin, 
and were unfit for military service. A young 
officer took breakfast at a neighbouring table in 
the dining-room and bowed to us as he entered. 
We asked for minute directions in order to get to 
the station from which we did not intend to travel, 
and, telling the landlady that we should, in all 


likelihood, be back again that night, and that we 
should be obliged if she would reserve the same 
room for us, we left. 

We went for a short distance in the direction in 
which she would expect us to go, and then, after 
waiting a long time for a tram, got one, full, 
apparently, of women clerks going to business. 
This tram took us again to the Zoological Gardens 

Keith, before we left the hotel in the morning, 
had found the luggage receipt in one of his pockets. 
This, coupled with the fact that we had managed 
to get away from the hotel without meeting the 
police, brought us one little ray of hope. 

We realised that it was absolutely essential to 
get food of some kind. Ration cards we did not 
possess, and rationed articles we were, therefore, 
unable to buy. As practically everything was 
rationed, the only things which we were able to 
purchase were two pounds of chocolate-creams at 
nine shillings a pound, and two small tins of 
sardines, which cost us four and six each. We 
had hoped to be able to buy nuts, but we could 
obtain them nowhere. We got our luggage, and 
at about half-past ten in the morning found our- 
selves on the platform of the Zoological Gardens 

igo ESCAPED ! 

Station, with second-class tickets for Hannover in 
our pockets. Our experience on the previous 
evening with a detective on that very station did 
not tend to make us feel very much at ease, though 
we were carrying one or two German newspapers, 
and I had also bought Captain Konig's recently 
published book, 'The Voyage of the Deutschland,' 
the story of his sensational trips across the Atlantic 
in the first German submarine merchantman. 




We had intentionally taken tickets for a Bummel- 
ztig (slow train), in the belief that such a train 
would be less likely to be visited by detectives than 
an express corridor train, and I think we were 
correct in our surmise. The journey was a pain- 
fully slow one, and there were times when we 
seemed to be subjected to very close scrutiny by 
some of the other occupants of our compartment. 
At Stendal we had a long wait, and spent about an 
hour over a fairly decent meal of fish and vege- 
tables, which we obtained without having to pro- 
duce ration cards. While we were walking along 
the platform to our compartment in the train, we 
found ourselves at the tail-end of a column of 
about one hundred Russian military prisoners who 
were being transported by German guards to a 
village in the neighbourhood. They travelled by 
the same train, and I remember to this day my 

192 ESCAPED ! 

feeling of mingled exultation and compassion, — 
exultation at the thought that we had, for a brief 
spell at any rate, flung off our bonds, and com- 
passion for the poor fellows who walked in front 
of us, cut off for the uncertain duration of the war 
from the land of their birth. With what glee those 
very guards would have marched us back to prison 
had they only had the faintest notion of our 
identity ! It was one of those amusing situations 
which could be enjoyed at the time. Most similar 
experiences are funny only in retrospect. 

Whenever people entered our compartment, I 
was always either pretending to sleep or pretending 
to be very deeply engrossed in my book, which I 
read twice through. Keith later on pointed out to 
me with pardonable glee that I had bought a faulty 
copy, several chapters of the book appearing in 
duplicate. I had read the book twice from begin- 
ning to end without noticing this. My thoughts 
were centred upon other things than Captain 
KSnig's adventures. Our own adventures were 
my chief concern. 

On arrival in Hannover about 7 o'clock the same 
evening, we deposited our luggage at the railway 
station and went into the town. It was already 
dark, and we spent about an hour in the main 
streets making a few additional purchases, visiting 


cafes, and searching for a suitable hotel for the 
night. In a shop where we tried in vain to pur- 
chase a pair of boots for me, in place of my thin 
ones, two young Germans who came in eyed us 
very suspiciously, and Keith thought he saw them 
follow us and enter the same cafe. We immedi- 
ately paid for our beer, and, once in the crowded 
main street, set out to throw them off the scent, 
zigzagging through quiet and crowded streets until 
we felt reasonably certain that they had lost sight 
of us. 

Knowing quite well that the odds were dead 
against us, we were both of the opinion that it 
would be very nice, after recapture, should we fail 
in our enterprise, to have as many pleasant 
memories as possible to dwell upon in solitary 
confinement. What could be pleasanter than the 
sharp contrast between prison skilly and the 
memory' of at least one good square meal ? So, 
to a restaurant ! We found Hannover's best in the 
St Georg Palast Restaurant, where we had a most 
excellent fish meal. The large room was full of 
elegant women and smart officers, in their pale- 
blue uniforms, Hannover being a centre where the 
elite of the cavalry officers of the German army are 
quartered. We ate, drank, and smoked, supremely 
at our ease by this time, and when an excellent 


194 ESCAPED ! 

string orchestra on a raised platform at the end 
of the room began to play light music, I had to 
take a very firm grip of myself in order not to 
blubber like a child. Heigh-ho ! we were having a 
run for our money. 

Late that night we went to our fifth-rate hotel, 
where no one asked to see our papers (though we 
were required to sign the registration book), and 
we asked to be called at an early hour the following 
morning. I gave myself a name which I thought 
would not be too difficult to pronounce, and quite 
enjoyed inventing occupation, birthday, the name 
of the place from which I had come, and so on. 
One mistake I made, and remembered when it was 
too late, was to misspell the name of the town I 
chose as my place of residence. 

When we were called the next morning, Keith, 
roused from sleep by the noise of some one knock- 
ing at the door, called out in English *' Thank 
you 1 " which I tried to drown just in time with a 
very sleepy but fairly loud *'Danke schon ! " 

At breakfast, the waiter was very insolent because 
we could not produce traveller's bread-cards, and 
it was difficult to know what attitude to take up 
towards him. An attitude of haughtiness on the 
one hand, or of obsequiousness on the other, might 
have ended in fatal consequences. We got out of 


the difficulty by telling him resignedly that we would 
do without bread altogether. He little knew! 

Although we had no intention of leaving from the 
main station, we sent the porter to the cloak-room 
with our suit-case, and called for it about an hour 
later. The intervening time we spent in a park, 
the name of which I have forgotten, in the suburbs 
of the city. Then we took a tram to a suburban 
station named Hainholz, to the west of Hannover 
on the main line, and there booked to Osnabriick, 
I believe, by slow train, our intention being to 
book again there to Haltern, a small railway junc- 
tion about twenty to twenty-five miles from the 
Dutch frontier. It was about ten o'clock when 
we left, and apart from long waits at certain sta- 
tions en route, we were in the train until about 
seven o''clock in the evening. Captain Konig again 
rendered me yeoman service, and I am very grateful 
to the gallant gentleman. 

At Minden, where we had a long wait, we wished 
to spend our time in the station buffet, and in order 
to reach it, had to pass through the barrier between 
the ticket-collector and two German military police, 
who were examining papers. The presence of these 
military policemen made us very nervous, but we 
noticed that, like the "red-caps" in our own 
country, they had to do only with men in uniform, 

195 ESCAPED ! 

and when our turn came we passed by them quite 
safely. In the buffet we were served with a fine 
veal ragout and vegetables at a very low price, 
and no coupons were asked for. I mention this 
fact because I have often contended that food con- 
ditions in Berlin are not typical of food conditions 
throughout Germany, and in my opinion never will 
be. It is misleading in the extreme for a casual 
observer to generalise from what he has seen in 
Berlin. My experience is that food conditions 
vary very greatly throughout the whole empire, 
according to the favourable or unfavourable situa- 
tion of the town in question, and also according to 
the efficient or inefficient administration of the 
particular district. Prophecies to the effect that 
Germany will collapse through starvation in a few 
weeks' or a few months' time should be received 
with great caution, and inquiry should be made 
as to whether the prophet is generalising from 
one specific case, or really in a position to speak 
with authority on conditions as they actually are 
throughout the whole of Germany. 




We arrived at Haltern, the station past Diilmen — 
a great distribution camp for military prisoners — 
about seven that evening, Keith having re-booked 
at Osnabriick without difficulty. Fortunately, 
quite a crowd of people were leaving the station 
as we passed through the barrier, I remaining 
some little way behind my chum, and following 
him at a distance along the dark road which led 
to the village. 

Haltern had been more or less Hobson's choice. 
Among other things which we lost in losing our 
parcel in Berlin, was our map, and as Keith had 
taken this route on a previous occasion and found 
much to recommend it, we thought it better to 
trust to his remembering the landmarks, even by 
night, rather than gamble on a new and entirely 
unknown route. Luck had been dead against us 
all along the line. Everything that could possibly 


go wrong, short of recapture, had gone wrong; 
and when, in the train, we saw snow falling and 
felt the bitter cold, we knew that only the luck 
that carries men back to safety, after fighting a 
forlorn hope, could possibly carry us through. 
Still, we were in for it. There was no turning 
back. We resolved to do our best, and leave the 
rest to fate. 

The night, as I have said, was bitterly cold. The 
road and paths beneath our feet were covered with 
sheet-ice, and it was difficult at times to prevent 
oneself from falling. We got to the centre of the 
village, and then came to a hiain road running due 
west, where I noticed a large sign, indicating that 
this was the road to Wesel. I still remained some 
distance behind my chum, who was walking ahead 
rapidly with the suit-case. When we came to the 
outer edge of the village, I noticed that a woman 
wearing a shawl passed him, going on her way 
from the country into the village, stared intently 
at him, went on, stopped again, turned round 
again, and continued to watch him for some 
seconds. Then she hurried on into the village. 
She took no notice of me. As soon as she had 
disappeared in the darkness, I rushed up to Keith 
and told him what had taken place, and said that I 
feared the woman had gone to the village to report 


the fact of our presence in the neighbourhood to 
the police. Fearing the possibihty of immediate 
pursuit, we dashed from the highroad behind a 
broken hedge on our right, and flung ourselves 
flat in the wet grass among stones, turning up 
our coat-collars so as to hide our white collars 
and shirts. 

We lay there for some time, listening and quietly 
breathing. We heard nothing, and presently Keith 
arose and made for the open country in what, I 
supp(3se, was a north - westerly direction, right 
through the fields which covered the rising ground. 
I was about to follow him, just as he was becoming 
lost to view in the darkness, when I heard foot- 
steps coming in our direction along the path at the 
side of the road. It was too late to warn Keith, 
and in any case he was already out of sight of any 
one passing by us. I flung myself flat on my 
stomach, with my head in the direction of the ap- 
proaching footsteps, and listened. It was evidently 
a man coming into the village, for I heard his 
heavy walk as he passed me at a distance of about 
three yards. In the meantime Keith had missed 
me, and had come back, whispering my name. I 
answered, joined him, and we again set out for the 
open country. 

It was, as I have said, pitch-dark, and wc had 

200 ESCAPED ! 

not gone a hundred yards before it commenced 
to rain. By that time we had reached a dry ditch, 
on one side of which was a ploughed field, at the 
summit of the slope. Beyond the ploughed field 
in a direction due west we could see the dim 
outline of a dark wood silhouetted against the 
sombre sky, and behind us, on the other side of 
the ditch, ran the stone wall of a cemetery. Here 
we began to pack our rucksacks. I was ready a 
little earlier than Keith, owing to the fact that he 
wished to strap his overcoat to his rucksack, in- 
stead of wearing it as I preferred to do. While 
he had been filling the pockets of the rucksacks 
with the chocolate-creams we had bought in Berlin, 
I heard one or two chocolates fall into the ditch, 
and one or two into the open suit-case. Thinking 
that it was a pity to waste them, I began to fumble 
in the suit-case with my gloved hand, until I found 
what I thought was one of them. As far as I 
knew, the suit-case had been emptied. It was 
much too dark to see anything. There was no 
moon, and no stars were visible. In size and 
shape, something which I picked up from the suit- 
case resembled in every respect the chocolates 
which we had bought, and after tearing off with 
my teeth part of the tinfoil which covered it, I 
took a bite and swallowed a portion before I had 


time to spit it out. I did not discover until much 
later in the evening exactly what it was that I had 
swallowed, though I felt quite sure it was not 
chocolate-cream. I said nothing about the inci- 
dent at the moment to Keith, attaching no 
importance whatsoever to it. 

As soon as we were ready we set out to look 
for a certain road, running west, which Keith had 
taken on a former occasion. We spent about two 
hours looking for that road, walking across open 
country, stumbling across ploughed fields, smash- 
ing through the ice which covered ditches, tearing 
clothes on barbed wire, and sliding across lanes 
covered with sheet-ice at the bottom of deep 
cuttings. I knew that Keith was in very good 
condition, and I felt, for the first two hours or 
so, ready to face any physical fatigue. 

In a certain steep cutting, with high banks and 
hedges on each side, we heard footsteps, and a 
man passed us in the dark, who, however, seemed 
more afraid of us than we were of him. He 
hurried on past us, and was soon lost to view in 
the darkness. 

We had an exceedingly trying two hours, trying 
both to our nerves and temper, until we found the 
right road. In order to satisfy ourselves that it 
was the one we sought, we had to return to the 

202 ESCAPED ! 

cross-roads at the western edge of the village, in 
order to establish certain facts. Then we set out 
for the west. 

Before we had gone very far, and as nearly as I 
can remember between eleven and twelve at night, 
I became painfully conscious of the fact that my 
strength was ebbing fast. I could not understand 
it, in view of the fact that I had felt so fit in the 
early part of the evening. We had had a fairly 
strenuous time searching for the right road, but we 
had done nothing that could explain the condition 
in which I began to find myself. Although I said 
nothing to my friend, he noticed that in spite of 
my efforts I was not able to keep up speed, and 
he anxiously questioned me about it. Feeling that 
my condition was perhaps after all due to my long 
term of imprisonment — I had had much longer in 
the Stadt Vogtei Prison than my friend — I thought 
it possible that I might be able to work it off; but 
try as I would, I soon found that this was impos- 
sible, and all my assurances that I should be all 
right soon failed to reassure my friend. 

We discovered quite accidentally at this stage 
that what I had actually eaten, in the belief that 
it was chocolate, was as a matter of fact part of 
the end of a stick of Colgate's shaving soap ! I learned 
later that it was a well - known dodge among 


regular soldiers in the British army in times of 
peace, when a man wanted to avoid taking part 
in night manceuvres, to swallow a tiny soap-pill, 
the effect of this on the action of the heart being 
of such a character that the man was invariably 
pronounced by the regimental doctor "temporarily 
unfit for service." ^ Although I spat out as much 
as possible of the soap when I discovered it was 
not chocolate, I had nevertheless swallowed a 
certain amount, and most decidedly much more 
than a tiny pill. My legs and feet became almost 
like lead, and it was only with the utmost exertion 
that I was able to drag one foot behind the other. 
We were filled with consternation. 

Our route lay for a time along a good road, 
which rapidly deteriorated and became simply an 
irregular line of very deep cart-ruts in clay and 
mud, which in a night had been frozen into stone. 
Snow lay upon the ground, and over and over 
again I crashed through the film of ice which 
covered the ruts, stumbled, and fell. My friend 
dragged me up and urged me on. On we went 

' Since this account of my adventures appeared in ' Blackwood's 
Magazine,' several medical men have (juestioncd the accuracy of this 
statement. All that I can say is, that I know of no other cause to 
which my sudden breakdown could have been attributed. I have 
related the practice, sometimes resorted to in the army, exactly as I 
heard it from regulars in prison and hospital. 

204 ESCAPED ! 

again. My condition grew worse and worse. Pre- 
sently we came to a part of the country where the 
landscape was entirely different from the country 
through which we had passed. Sometimes for 
about half a mile our way led through forest aisles, 
with tall and ghostly rows of pine and fir trees on 
either side. 

A mixture of sleet and snow beat in our faces 
and froze on our hats and overcoats. Over and 
over again I sank down amidst the snow on the 
wayside, was helped up again by my friend, 
struggled on twenty or thirty yards, and fell down 
again, to repeat the same procedure a hundred 
times. The country grew wilder, and opened out 
into expanses of heath partially covered with 
stunted shrubs. 

We came to four cross-roads, and chose one of 
them, after frequent consultations of the compass, 
but soon found, after we had gone about half a 
mile, that it led on to a wild and snow-covered 
desolate heath, which Keith was certain he had 
not crossed on his former escape. Seeing that his 
former escape had been undertaken in the spring, 
when the appearance of the country was entirely 
different, his ability in route-finding, with snow on 
the ground, and on such a night as this, I regard 
as nothing short of marvellous. 


By this time, about half-past two in the morning 
— we had been tramping almost continuously since 
seven — I had to confess that I was " done." I was 
completely exhausted. He helped me back to the 
edge of the forest and bedded me on some broken 
twigs in the gloom of the pine-trees, while he went 
back to the cross-roads in order to see, with our 
last match, whether he could discover where we 
had gone wrong. I lay there motionless, with 
mingled feelings of disgust, heart-breaking dis- 
appointment, and an intense longing for sleep. 
How long I lay there I do not know. Keith 
returned after a time, and, as he told me later, 
thought I had died while he was away. He ex- 
amined my pulse, and told me later that it was 
hardly perceptible, and very very slow. 

Feeling that he ought to have the best possible 
chance, I pleaded with him to leave me there and 
go on alone. He would not hear of this, and turned 
down all my arguments. He helped me on to my 
feet and practically dragged me back to the cross- 
roads, carrying my rucksack as well as his own. 
There I sank into the snow again. He pointed 
out to me the road we should have taken ; but we 
both realised that it was out of the question for us 
to go on, and we decided, after a short consulta- 
tion, to return to a rickety straw-shed which we 

2o6 ESCAPED ! 

had noticed near a farm, at a distance of about 
three miles from Haltern. It consisted of a straw- 
rick, covered by an open leaky roof supported by 
four corner-posts. 

We chose the road which we thought was the 
right one, and painfully made our way along its 
deeply-rutted surface, for a considerable distance, 
only to discover that it led us into unfamiliar 
country. We were wrong again. There was noth- 
ing for it but to retrace our steps. By this time 
my eyes were beginning to play me tricks, and I 
dimly remember swearing most volubly — not usu- 
ally one of my many faults — as the thought came 
over me of all that our failure at the last lap would 
mean. Still, as I have often thought since, when- 
ever, while in jail, we had indulged in calculations 
of our chances, we had always been most firmly 
of the opinion that we should have no prospect of 
success in attempting to cross the frontier when 
the landscape was white with snow. Two dark 
moving bodies on a white surface would present 
an ideal target for the frontier guards. Our plans 
also necessarily involved our spending a full day — 
from dawn till dusk — lying out in the open, and, 
unsatisfactorily furnished as we were with food and 
clothing, and with nothing in the way of stimu- 
lants, it is an open question whether we should 


have survived such an ordeal in our then state of 
health, or whether we should have been compelled, 
nearer the goal, to crawl to some habitation and 
give ourselves up to the people there. The gall, 
however, that tasted so bitterly at the time, was 
the thought that my breakdown had deprived the 
two of us of a sporting chance. I felt keenly for 
my friend, and my readers will place their own 
value upon the splendid way in which he stood by 
his chum. 

To return : we found that we had gone wrong, 
and there was no alternative but to retrace our 
steps to the cross-roads. I am not quite sure, but 
I believe we took another wrong turning before 
we eventually struck the right road, and then, 
proceeding wearily along it, we came to the first 
cottage. We tried half-heartedly to knock up 
the people there, but receiving no response, I 
stumbled along, helped by Keith, to the straw- 
rick, v,'hich was our real objective. By means 
of a rickety ladder, two of whose rungs broke 
when we tried to use them, we climbed up into 
the straw, and all that I remember is lying there, 
convulsed every three or four seconds throughout 
the long night with shivers which shook every 
nerve in my body, constantly wet by the dripping 
snow from the roof, and too exhausted even to 

208 ESCAPED ! 

be able to cover myself with the straw which 
lay around me. 

We got through the night somehow or other, and 
at about six or seven in the morning, heard below 
us the noise of some one walking in the farmyard. 
Keith climbed down the ladder and went to the 
farmhouse, to inform the people that we were two 
young Germans who had lost our way the previous 
night on the snow-covered heath, and had been 
forced to take refuge in their straw-rick. He came 
back shortly afterwards with the welcome news 
that the farmer's wife had requested him to take 
me into the kitchen, where we might sit by the fire 
and drink a cup of coffee which she would prepare 
for us. Painfully, and still trembling in every 
limb, I managed to climb down the ladder and 
hobble into the house. The goodwife and her 
young son and daughters received us quite kindly, 
and although we remained there more than an 
hour, and drank and ate the things they provided 
for us, they never seemed to doubt our story that 
we were Germans, who were not in the army 
because we were physically unfit for military ser- 
vice. The old lady told us of her soldier son, 
and when we left in order to return to Haltern 
Station, we paid her for the food, and for any 
damage for which we might have been responsible. 



I left Captain Konig's 'Voyage of the Deutsch- 
land ' with the eldest daughter, I have often 
wondered since whether I shall ever have an op- 
portunity of meeting these kind people again, and 
telling them the true story which lay behind that 
little incident. 

I was feeling better, thanks perhaps to the coffee 
and food, but I recognised that it would be folly 
to attempt to lie up the whole day, in the condition 
in which I still found myself; and as we walked 
along the highroad, through beautiful snow-covered 
country, we discussed plans, and decided that we 
would return to Haltern Station and take tickets 
for a certain town in another part of Germany, 
where I thought we might be able to find a hiding- 
place, with a view to our lying up there until the snow 
had disappeared and I had completely recovered. 
Had fortune favoured us in carrying out this plan, 
we should, at a later date, have emerged from our 
hiding-place, and made another dash for the fron- 
tier. In spite of our heart-breaking disappoint- 
ments, and our very slim chances of ultimate 
success, I was glad to be free, and remember how, 
with a feeling of intense gratitude, I walked along 
that country road, with pine-woods on either side 
crowning the snow-covered slopes ; how my heart 
leapt at the sight of an occasional robin-redbreast, 


210 ESCAPED ! 

and how gladdened I felt at the sound of children's 
laughter. We got through the village safely, and 
arrived at the station. There we took tickets for a 
certain town, and as we were passing through the 
barrier my friend asked the ticket-collector from 
which platform the train left. The man looked at 
us and said quite quietly — 

" From over there, gentlemen ! But you have 
time enough. You have more than ten minutes to 
spare. Why not go into the waiting-room ? You 
will be notified of the departure of the train." 

"Thank you," we said, and turned to walk to 
the waiting-room, which, as soon as we entered, 
we discovered was not only the station buffet, but 
also the Army Headquarters for the village. A tall 
Lieutenant, in the smart green uniform of a Prus- 
sian Jager Regiment, stood near the buffet, and, as 
we ordered coffee, we noticed to our dismay that 
the ticket-collector had followed us into the room 
and was engaged in conversation with the Lieu- 
tenant. They glanced several times in our direc- 
tion, and before the waiter had time to bring our 
coffee, the Lieutenant came up to us, and putting 
his hands on the table and leaning over, said — 

*' Wo konimen Sic her ? Wo sind Ihre Papier e ? " 
(Where do you come from ? Where are your 
papers ?) 


We looked at each other, made a sorry attempt 
to smile, saw in each other's eyes recognition of 
the fact that the game was up, and that bluff would 
serve us no longer. We admitted our identity. 

" Corporal, take these two men across to the 
guard-room ! " 

Failed again ! 




The Lieutenant who arrested us at Haltern Station 
was certainly very pleased with himself at our 
capture. He treated us with great courtesy, and 
told the soldier who was to take us across to the 
guard -room to give us double rations of soup, 
adding, with a significant smile — 

" Sie werden sehen, dass wir noch nicht ausgehungert 
sind trotz der engUschen Blokade.^' 

(You will see that we are not yet starving, in 
spite of the Enghsh blockade.) 

The guard-room was a wooden hut on the other 
side of the railway lines, and was the place where 
the station sentries lived and slept when they were 
not on duty. It was clean, and contained, at one 
end, a long wooden bunk with horse-blankets, in 
which the soldiers slept side by side, three tressel- 
tables with benches, and a big cast-iron stove, which 
heated the room so thoroughly that the tempera- 


ture was quite uncomfortably high. We were 
given a very good soup, identical with the soup 
which was given to our guards, and chatted quite 
amicably with the German soldiers who came and 
went during the day. The corporal in charge of 
the guard was a pedantic boor, and very different 
in his attitude towards us from the ordinary 
soldiers, one or two of whom came very close 
indeed to expressing sympathy with us in our 
failure to win through. When we asked whether 
it was usual, on the actual frontier, to challenge 
escaping prisoners if they were seen, the corporal 
growled — 

" It may be the rule, but if ever I am on duty 
there, and see any one trying to get over, I shall 
shoot and shout 'Halt!' afterwards. I have five 
cartridges in my magazine, and if I miss with the 
first, I shall not fail to hit with one of the others. 
I shall take no risks." 

Some time after we had eaten our soup, the 
lieutenant came in, accompanied by a far-away- 
behind-the-lines official in officer's uniform, who 
was greeted with respect and almost fear by the 
soldiers, and addressed as Herr Inspektor. He 
spoke to us in the usual insolent Prussian fashion, 
much to the evident embarrassment of the young 
lieutenant, who had been quite palpably striving 

214 ESCAPED ! 

to play the gentleman. He demanded, with much 
bounce and bluster, that we should pay for our 
food, to which request we made no demur, and he 
seemed, the whole time, to be determinedly looking 
for trouble. 

He began to discuss the war in its different 
aspects, laying the blame, of course, on England 
and her devilish diplomacy, and showed himself 
absolutely inaccessible to the arguments we did 
not hesitate to advance, when we became some- 
what nettled by his absurd statement of the case. 
He left shortly afterwards, and we did not see him 
again. The corporal, who was bubbling over with 
unctuous respect for his superior's gay uniform, 
made a perfect salute on his departure. 

We had assumed that we should remain in the 
guard-room until the transport arrived from Berlin 
to take us back to prison, but shortly after dark the 
lieutenant appeared again, and apologised for 
having to send us to the village lock-up. He had 
tried hard during the day to elicit from us full 
information concerning the manner in which we 
had escaped from prison, and also how we had 
managed to get to a point so near the frontier, 
but we told him just as much as we thought was 
good for him, and no more. The two soldiers who 
escorted us, with fixed bayonets, from the station 


through the dark village to the village jail, were 
good fellows, and did not conceal their appreciation 
of the fact that we had several times had a run for 
freedom, and also their sincere regret that they 
were compelled to play a part in taking us back to 
bondage. When handing us over to the jailer 
inside the village lock-up, they passed on to him 
a recommendation from the lieutenant that we 
should be treated as considerately as was con- 
sistent with keeping us in safe custody. After we 
had had our pockets searched for weapons, and 
even our penknives taken away from us, we were 
taken along a short corridor, the cell door was 
opened, and we were shown in. The jailer — a 
good-hearted fellow, with the slowest-moving mind 
I have ever encountered (he appeared to live con- 
stantly in a state of semi-coma) — brought us a 
little food before he locked us up for the night. 

The cell did not differ, in any marked degree, 
from what I suppose is the appearance of most 
cells of the same kind, except for the fact that it 
was abominably dirty, and the bed was so lousy 
that I was kept awake for hours at night by what 
appeared, to my vivid imagination, to be whole 
regiments of dauntless vermin. In one corner of 
the room, underneath the heavily-barred window, 
was a nine-foot pile of bicycle tyres, which had 

2i6 ESCAPED ! 

doubtless been confiscated by the authorities some 
time before, for the sake of the rubber they con- 
tained. The only furniture in the place consisted 
of a hard bed, with dirty mattress and blankets, 
a wooden, wedge-shaped pillow, a table, stool, and 
an abominably insanitary convenience. 

We spent three days in this cell, our only relief 
coming when we were occasionally allowed to tend 
the corridor fire which was supposed to heat the 
cell. When permitted to do this work we usually 
lingered over the job as long as we could, before 
the time came to be locked up again. 

Whether it was a boon to be allowed to live 
together or not I do not quite know, for our 
minds were filled with the galling disappointment 
consequent upon failure in our enterprise, the 
prospect of transference to the hell we hated so 
intensely, and speculation as to the punishment 
we were likely to receive. During the time we 
spent in this jail we saw no possibility of escape, 
though we might have succeeded by some ruse 
or other had we remained there sufficiently long 
to make the necessary thorough investigation. 
Our food was usually passed in to us through a 
tiny trap -door in the door of the cell, and we 
were charged for it on leaving the jail. 

In the cell next to ours was a Russian flight- 


lieutenant, who had been recaptured near the same 
village after a very plucky and determined attempt 
to escape. While tending the fire we dropped 
down the trap-door of his cell, and poking our 
heads through, endeavoured to carry on a conver- 
sation with him, but he spoke no English, no 
French, and practically no German ; and as I 
knew only about three words of Russian and two 
lines of a Russian song, whose meaning I did not 
understand, we were not able to do much more 
than grin at each other and look sympathetic. 




On the morning of the third day the cell door 
was opened, and we were advised that our guards 
had come for us. They were a corporal and a 
private from Berlin, who had been sent specially 
to escort us back to the prison. We bade farewell 
to our well-meaning if undesirable host, and leav- 
ing the jail set out for the station, where we took 
train for Dortmund. Our guards warmed up to us 
after the first few minutes, and had they not been 
our guards, would have been quite acceptable 
travelling companions. 

At Dortmund we had to change and wait some 
time for a train. The soldiers very considerately 
suggested that we should go into the third-class 
waiting-room, and there they allowed us to order 
a meal and drink beer. Our train from Dortmund 
to Berlin was a corridor express train, and almost 
full of soldiers. For a short distance we had to 


stand in the corridor, but later one of the soldiers 
succeeded in inducing the guard to find room for 
us. The third-class compartment which he found 
contained only two vacant seats. For obvious 
reasons we tried to induce our guards to take these 
seats, while they, also for obvious reasons, and with 
more success, insisted that we should take them. 
On taking our seats we found ourselves sitting face 
to face with a private of the Zeppelin Corps, who, 
in spite of the notice warning soldiers and sailors 
to be guarded in their conversation, was allowing 
himself to be "pumped" by his fellow-passengers, 
and was talking as freely about Zeppelins and 
attacks on England, in which he had participated 
on three occasions, as though he were talking to 
his commanding officer. 

We arrived in Berlin late that night, and were 
handed over, in the office of the Stadt Vogtei 
Prison, to the care of the warders whom I had 
fondly imagined I should never see again. Great 
was their glee at sight of us once more. We were 
taken to the worst cells, at the back of the military 
part of the prison, and locked in for the night. 




I THREW myself on my hard low bed and slept. 

It soon became evident that the punishment to 
be meted out to us on this occasion was intended 
to be so harsh in its character that it would act as 
a deterrent in the case of any of our fellow-prisoners 
who might be working on similar plans for escape. 
We were to be allowed no English parcels whatso- 
ever, and our friends were warned that they would 
be severely punished if they attempted to pass in 
food to us. The reason why we had been given 
cells in the back part of the military prison was to 
make it impossible for our friends to see us or to 
speak to us. 

Our cell windows looked down into another 
yard, where only the German prisoners took 
exercise. Books were allowed us, and although 
one's range of choice was very much limited, I 
found solace in such books as the second volume 



of Morley's ' Life of Gladstone,' Prescott's ' History 
of the Conquest of Peru,' ' The Autobiography of 
Lord Herbert of Cherbury,' Walton's ' Compleat 
Angler,' and the first portion of * Don Quixote.' 
Another book which I read was Gordon's * Diary 
in Khartoum.' In one entry, Gordon, referring to 
the shortage of food from which the besieged 
suffered in Khartoum, says : — 

"The stomach governs the world, and it was 
the stomach (a despised organ) which caused 
our misery from the beginning. It is wonderful 
that the ventral tube of man governs the world, 
in small and great things." 

It was certainly ** that despised organ " which 
caused my misery, and our failure, on our last 
attempt to escape. 

Apart from these English books, I managed to 
procure from a fellow-prisoner a number of recently 
published books, written by German flying-men, 
submarine commanders, naval officers, and war cor- 
respondents, and found them intensely interesting. 

Two or three days after our arrival in the Stadt 

Vogtei Prison, we heard that S , the ringleader 

of our little party, had also been captured and 
brought to the prison. He was put into the cell 
next to mine, and on the night of his arrival, he, 

22a ESCAPED ! 

Keith, and I were taken to a room near the 
prison office to await examination at the hands of 
Kriegsgerichtsrat (Court -Martial Advocate) Wolff 
from the Kommandantar in Berlin. He was not 
free to see us immediately, and while waiting for 
him we were kept together in one room. 

Wolff, a baptised German Jew, wore on his 
gorgeous tunic the ribbon of the Iron Cross, 
which I suspect was conferred upon him for his 
courage in persecuting the countless poor Polish 
civilians who had passed through his hands since 
the outbreak of war. He sat there, smug, fat, 
and complacent as ever, and, like Sam Weller 
when he saw the turnkeys who let Mr Pickwick 
into the Fleet Prison, I reflected upon the im- 
mense satisfaction it would afford me to make a 
fierce assault upon him — if it were only lawful 
and peaceable to do so. He cross-questioned me 
thoroughly, his secretary taking down my state- 
ment in writing. He showed a most ill-bred 
curiosity concerning every detail of our escape, 
and my statement, when I had signed it, no doubt 
aroused considerable interest among those officers 
in the Berlin Kommandantur who still retained an 
interest in, and understanding for, the fairy-tales 
of their childhood. Keith was then called in, the 
statement was read over to him, and he signed it, 


with what mental reservations I know not. Keith 

and I were then taken to our cells, while S 

had to undergo a short examination alone. The 
following morning we were told by the sergeant 
that we should be kept in the strictest form of 
solitary confinement for four weeks, and should be 
allowed no privileges whatsoever. The lieutenant 
was determined to see that the punishment meted 
out to us should be of such an exemplary character 
that none of the other prisoners would commit the 
same offence. 

It would make an interesting story if I dared 
relate exactly why we emerged from our five weeks' 
solitary confinement — it became five weeks instead 
of four — without loss of weight, but I must refrain. 

After we had been in solitary confinement for 
about a fortnight, the lieutenant occasionally came 
to my cell, accompanied by the warder, when the 
conversation which took place between us usually 
ran somewhat as follows : — 

"Guten Tag, Herr Ellison. Well, how is the 
prison diet suiting you ? " 

"Abominably, lieutenant. I am losing weight 
fast, and feel very slack and weak." 

He would look at me with a puzzled expression, 
while I tried to appear as sad and careworn as 

224 ESCAPED ! 

" But you look all right." 

" Yes, lieutenant, I may look all right, but I know 
how \ feel. It is scandalous to give men food like 

I enjoyed the joke immensely. 

Of the men who escaped with us, all except 

G were caught before they had been long in 

enjoyment of their liberty, and of him we heard no 
definite news whatsoever. Whether he remained 
in the country, or succeeded in crossing one of the 
frontiers, or was shot in trying to do so, I do not 
know to this day. 

S had been very incautious in Berlin. One 

night he telephoned to a lady friend whom the 
Berlin police were expecting him to visit. The 
police tapped the wire, and when he arrived at 
the rendezvous, he was met, not by the lady, but 
by detectives who were waiting to arrest him. He 
arrived at the prison wearing a pair of dark-blue 

Our friend, the proprietor of the gambling-hell, 
jumped on to the platform of a tram-car in BerHn 
about eleven o'clock one night, and ran straight 
into the arms of a policeman who knew him quite 

*' Guten Abend, Herr R . Kommen Sie mil,'" 

said the policeman ; and our friend being a Ger- 


man, and well trained in obedience to authority, 
came mit. 

The other man, a corporal in the German Army, 
who rejoined us after he had been at liberty for 
about six weeks, had been living in the meantime 
with ladies of doubtful chastity, and told us that 
on his mother's birthday he could not refrain from 
going to see her in order to wish her many happy 
returns of the day. Detectives surrounded the 
house, his mother pleaded with him not to " scrap " 
with them, as he said he yearned to do, and he 
was brought, unresisting, back to prison. Shortly 
afterwards he volunteered again for service at the 
Front, and I have no doubt that he was placed 
in such a position there that his days would be 

We had been put in charge of a warder who had 
the reputation among his fellows of being particu- 
larly punctilious, and even harsh, in the perform- 
ance of his duties ; but he turned out to be a very 
decent fellow, and did what he could, so far as the 
regulations would allow, to make our punishment 

The treatment in the prison varied from time 
to time, as I believe it did throughout every camp 
and prison in Germany, according to the character 
of the man who happened to have charge of one 


226 ESCAPED ! 

at any particular time. It was neither uniformly 
bad nor uniformly good ; and I feel bound to place 
on record that, on several occasions, we received 
from certain of the corporals in charge of us 
treatment as considerate as could have been meted 
out to us by our own countrymen. Such treat- 
ment, though, was rare ; and when we experienced 
it from men who had neither been offered, nor 
desired, any inducement to treat us well, we 
appreciated it very highly indeed. 

Two days before Christmas igi6 we were re- 
leased from solitary confinement, and I was allowed 
to take a single cell in the part of the building 
where my former fellow-prisoners were interned. 
Our Christmas was a melancholy festival, but it 
was as merry a one as we were able to make it. 
A sort of defiant cheerfulness characterised the 
attitude of most of us, and if, deep down in our 
hearts, there lurked a feeling of black despond- 
ency, none of us allowed it to appear on our faces. 
It was the second Christmas that I had spent in 
prison, and I resolved that it should be the last. 
It was the last. 




Early in January we all put our heads together, 
and set to work on still another petition for our 
return to Ruhleben Camp. We advanced all the 
old arguments, and perhaps something of our 
desperation fired the words it contained. To our 
amazement, rumours ran through the prison — 
rumours which no one seemed able to confirm — 
that the authorities at the Berlin Kommandantur 
had decided that we should return to camp. We 
were incredulous. 

I had long since abandoned hope of ever 
seeing Ruhleben again, and my mind was con- 
stantly at work to find some other way out of 
the prison, which I felt was destined otherwise to 
be my home until the end of the war. My health 
was seriously impaired ; my nerves, at times, were 
in shocking condition ; my memory had begun 

228 ESCAPED ! 

to suffer, and, in spite of all my efforts to be, and 
remain, defiantly cheerful, there came hours when 
I was overwhelmed by fits of gloom and de- 
spondency, against which I battled in vain. And 
I was by no means an isolated case. My friends 
were similarly affected. We grew strangely irri- 
table. The best of friends quarrelled violently with 
each other, and without cause. We had long 
since abandoned the little debates in which we 
used to indulge, in the early days of our prison 
life. Apart from the fact that each man knew his 
neighbour's point of view from A to Z, we were 
none of us in a fit condition to argue good- 
temperedly. Few of us were able to read books, 
and we spent most of the day wandering aimlessly 
about from cell to cell in search of the congenial 
companion we so seldom found. 

Stevenson, in his * Virginibus Puerisque,' says : — 

" People who share a cell in the Bastille, or 
are thrown together on an uninhabited isle, if 
they do not immediately fall to fisticuffs, will 
find some possible ground of compromise. 
They will learn each other's ways and 
humours, so as to know where they must 
go warily, and where they may lean their 
whole weight." 


So it was with us in our Bastille. When we found 
ourselves drawn constantly into contact with all 
sorts and conditions of men, it did not take us long 
to learn the ways and humours of our friends. 
We soon discovered men whom it was necessary 
to avoid. With others we had to walk very warily 
indeed, lest in their moods of unnatural irritability 
we should be constantly guilty of offence where 
none was intended, and long and intimate ac- 
quaintance in the case of others taught us indeed 
that they were men on whom we might lean our 
whole weight. 

Finally came the day when we were informed 
that the authorities had decided to send back to 
camp the Englishmen who were interned in the 
prison; but, alas! four of us who had escaped 
from the prison were to be kept behind. We 
were able to draw slight consolation from the fact 
that we were evidently considered too dangerous 
for even this partial release. 

The other two Englishmen who were kept 

behind, apart from Keith and myself, were S 

and W , who had made a plucky escape about 

seven o'clock one morning through one of the 
corridor windows into the street. A certain Ger- 
man, whose name I have forgotten, was interned 
for a time in the prison, and shared their cell. 

230 ESCAPED ! 

S and W — — had taken compassion on him 

and had fed him regularly. This German, by 
way of showing his gratitude for all that they 
had done 'for him, told them that when he was 
released he would take out of prison with him 
certain articles and foodstuffs which they might 
require, if they succeeded in escaping, and would 
declare that they were his own personal effects 
when his luggage was examined at the moment 
of his departure. He further invited the two to 
call for their luggage at his house when they had 
once made good their escape from the prison. 
Once clear of the prison, they called upon him, 
and he was most profuse in his expressions of 
delight at seeing them. Shortly after their arrival 
he made some excuse in order to leave the flat, 
and told them that he would be back within a 
very short time. What actually happened (and 
this I have upon absolutely unimpeachable author- 
ity) was this : This German gentleman telephoned 
immediately to the prison office and said — 

"As a proof of my patriotism, I wish to inform 

you that the two Englishmen, S and W , 

who escaped from the prison this morning, are 
at my house." 

He then gave instructions that they should send 
and arrest S and W in such a way that 


he would not appear to be implicated at all. This 
was done, and the luckless two were brought back 
to prison about four o'clock in the afternoon of 
the same day. I pity the gentleman if either of 
the two has an opportunity of shaking hands with 
him after the war. 

That parting from our friends was a sad affair. 
Although we had all lived under the microscope 
to such an extent, and for so long a time, that 
the most minute of our faults became magnified 
in the eyes of our best friends into enormities, it 
must not be forgotten that the microscope also 
brought the finer points into relief. Bad as life 
had been with those men there, we saw before us 
the prospect of a life indescribably worse when 
they had gone. We British are not a demonstra- 
tive people, and the simple statement that eyes 
lit up with affectionate regard, that hands clasped 
tighter and lingered longer together, will convey 
a world of meaning to any Englishman who reads 
these words. For all practical purposes Ruhleben 
Camp — a bare seven miles away — was more remote 
than Egypt is from England in times of peace. 

S , when he escaped from prison along with 

the rest of us, did not attain the end at which he 
was aiming. He did not, on that occasion, suc- 
ceed in robbing the police of their prey. He was 

232 ESCAPED ! 

taken out for trial on one occasion, after his re- 
captuie, and — did not return. 

The wily scoundrel was taken to the police 
court by a Berlin policeman, and, on the return 
journey from the court to the prison, succeeded 
in inducing the policeman to enter a public-house 

for refreshment. S was bubbling over with 

generosity, and in his eagerness to give the enemy 
a good time, he made the policeman blind drunk, 
and at a convenient moment escaped through a 
lavatory window. 

A fortnight later a post-card addressed to me, 

bearing the signature of S , and posted in 

Holland, arrived at the prison office, and al- 
though I never received the card, I learned that 

on it S informed me of his safe arrival 

in Holland, told me gleefully that there was 
plenty to eat there, and very foolishly, in a 
final sentence, asked me when I intended to 
join him. 

For quite a long time after the arrival of this 
post-card, instructions were given to the corporals 
to keep the strictest possible watch on Keith 
and myself; and at all times during the day, 
though particularly just before locking-up time, 
we found it impossible to get away from two of 
the corporals, who, in a most clumsy fashion, 


were endeavouring to disguise the fact that they 
were keeping careful watch on us. 

A Pole, who had a cell looking down into our 
yard, but situated on the fifth floor — one floor 
higher than our own — made a remarkable escape 
from the prison, and, so far as I know, was never 

In some way or other he had secured possession 
of a small file, and night after night, when the 
inmates of the prison were asleep, he climbed 
up to the bars of his window, and filed away at 
one of the perpendicular iron bars until at last 
he had filed it completely through. He used to 
fill up the notch he had made with soap, so that 
his work would not be discovered by the warders 
during the day. When the bar was completely 
filed through, he decided to escape the follow- 
ing night, and by a most ingenious use of various 
contrivances which he found in his sparely- 
furnished cell, he made a means of exit from the 
cell on to the roof. He bent back the bar through 
which he had filed, and just managed to squirm 
through on to the zinc window-ledge. He jammed 
a piece of wood which he found in the cell between 
the bars and the bricks, so that it formed a con- 
venient ledge, steadied himself on the window- 
ledge by means of his towel which he had drawn 

234 ESCAPED ! 

through the top iron cross - piece, and, stepping 
on to the wooden ledge he had made, took a firm 
grip of the brick coping above him and climbed 
on to the flat roof. As there was a sheer seventy- 
feet drop below him on to the stone pavement of 
the yard, it will be clearly seen that this was a 
feat demanding considerable nerve and coolness. 
How he escaped from the roof into the street 
was never discovered, but it is possible that he 
found his way on to the roof of a series of flats, 
and thence climbed through an open trap -door 
into the attic of some house. It was a wonder- 
fully plucky escape. 

When spring and summer returned, we were 
cheered somewhat in our loneliness by the arrival 
of a few other luckless escapers, who had made a 
bid for freedom from Ruhleben Camp. New friend- 
ships were formed, and our prison life again be- 
came a little more bearable. Each man, as he 
arrived, had a more or less interesting story to tell, 
and we learned something from each failure. 




I BELIEVE, in July 1917, we heard reports of the 
Conference between British and German delegates 
at The Hague, which was being held for the pur- 
pose of discussing the question of the treatment 
of prisoners of war, and when more details came 
to hand we learned that the case of such luckless 
ones as ourselves was also being discussed. At 
about the end of the first week in August, we 
learned quite definitely that the delegates and 
their respective Governments had agreed that 
those who had already served sentences for at- 
tempts to escape should be returned to " con- 
ditions of ordinary captivity," and that escapers, 
in future, were to be punished on recapture with 
a maximum sentence of fourteen days' solitary 
confinement, after the expiration of which period 
they were to be allowed to return to camp. 
At the time I had serious thoughts of escaping 

236 ESCAPED ! 

from prison, but my friends argued — and argued 
quite rightly — that in view of the fact that so many 
possible avenues of escape had been closed once 
and for all by the prison authorities, and that the 
most thorough precautions had been taken to 
prevent any further escape from the prison, any 
attempt along the lines I suggested would mean 
facing absolutely unwarrantable risks. 

My eagerness to make the attempt, whatever 
the risks, was not in any sense meritorious; it 
was the expression of a seething revolt against 
the injustice of my treatment and the unnatural 
life I was condemned to lead. There were times 
when I examined myself, and frankly and quite 
honestly admitted to myself that I should face 
the prospect of a quick death at the hands of 
a shooting-party in the prison-yard with perfect 
indifference. If I am grateful for anything in 
my prison life, it is, more than anything else, 
for the fact that I seldom, if ever, lost "kick" — 
I can find no better word. 

As I expected, the Kommandantur in Berlin evi- 
dently did all in their power, before sending us 
back to Ruhleben, to see if there were any possible 
way of evading the treaty obligations into which 
they had entered, and it was not until it was 
clearly brought home to them that it had been 


the intention of the British delegates expressly 
to include in the treaty such cases as our own that 
they decided to allow us to go back to camp. 
Almost a full month had elapsed after The Hague 
agreement came into operation before we were 
released from the prison, and it was near the end 
of September when we arrived in camp. 

We received a warm welcome from the interned 
on our arrival. I met scores of friends whom I 
had not seen for over two years, and found that 
the camp conditions had changed for the better. 
My long incarceration in the prison, with the 
absence of sun and fresh air, along with the 
depressing life there, had left me very much 
blanched. An Irish friend came up to me and 
said, with a laugh — 

" Good God, Ellison, you look like a b 

corpse ! When are you going to order your 
coffin ? " 

" Not yet, Tom, not yet," I answered with a 

The naughty escapers were put into Barrack 14, 
which had been cleared of all other occupants 
prior to our arrival. The intention was to keep 
us there under very strict supervision, and for 
about a week many of us were unable to sleep at 
night for the noise of corporals and soldiers tramp- 

238 ESCAPED ! 

ing through the barrack and examining every bed, 
every hour, from bedtime to daybreak. If a man 
happened to be missing from his bed, they awoke 
the whole barrack in order to get to know where 
he happened to be at the moment. 

The camp was given three roll-calls a day — 
one at half-past seven in the morning, the next 
at half-past one, and the third at half-past seven 
in the evening. The first two were held on the 
race-course, and the evening roll-call took place 
in the barrack at night. 

It was apparent that it was no easy matter to 
escape from the camp, though many of us had 
returned with the determination of having a run 
for our liberty at the earliest possible moment. 

For a time I thoroughly enjoyed the privilege 
of strolling about the camp, taking meals with old 
friends, inspecting the different institutions which 
had been established, and making new acquaint- 
ances. It was like a holiday to me by sheer force 
of contrast. All the distances in the camp seemed 
most spacious after my close confinement in the 
prison, and I revelled in such elementary things 
as wind, rain, sun, green trees, and the clean young 
English athletes who were so plentiful in camp. 

Life in Ruhleben, however, replete as the camp 
was with opportunities for work and diversion of 


all kinds, had not been without its effect on many 
of the interned during my two years' absence. 
Particularly sad was the marked effect it had had 
on the minds of some of the fine young boys whom 
I had known and liked when the camp was 
founded. Quite a number whom I saw were 
suffering from various degrees of melancholia and 
depression of spirits ; but on the whole the men — 
old and young — were standing the strain remark- 
ably well. 

It was some time before I could regain the 
necessary physical fitness to think seriously of 
fixing a date for my next attempt at escape. The 
prison life had had a softening influence upon my 
physique, and one severe cold after another led me 
to think, at times, that I should never regain my 
former physical fitness. The question of intern- 
ment in Holland was being much discussed at the 
time in camp, and, along with the rest, I had 
to undergo a medical examination, in order to see 
whether I were eligible or not for internment 
there. I attached no importance, however, to this, 
preferring to exchange myself rather than await 
the convenience of official bodies. I felt that it 
would afford me greater satisfaction to win back 
to freedom in my own way, rather than wait until 
I was exchanged. It would have been a sort of 

240 ESCAPED ! 

anti-climax to my many failures, had I been given 
my freedom along those lines. 

Keith made his final and successful attempt 
some time in October, along with my friends 
Armstrong and Kaufmann, and reached Holland 
within a fortnight, taking train from Berlin by 
devious routes and walking the rest of the distance 
to Holland.^ They wished me to accompany 
them, but I had resolved that I would make my 
next attempt absolutely on my own initiative, and 
I was only waiting until I felt sufficiently well to 
be able to face any ordinary physical fatigue, and 
any possible nerve-strain. 

I was not at all certain of the quality of my 
German, but had, for some time, oeen working 
very hard at the language, and I felt more confi- 
dence in my ability to pass as a German or neutral 
than I had done at any previous date. 

1 Armstrong and Kaufmann had failed on two previous occasions, 
and were for many months my cell companions in prison. 




After the escape of my three friends had been 
discovered, conditions in camp, from an escaper's 
point of view, became changed for the worse. 
From nightfall to daybreak the guard around the 
camp was doubled ; the strategic points were care- 
fully studied by the officers, and such precautions 
were taken to prevent another successful escape 
that, for a time, the situation appeared almost 
hopeless. One or two who attempted to escape 
at night were caught, and sent to prison before 
they had got clear of the camp. 

All this gave me furiously to think. I studied 
the movements of sentries in as unobtrusive a 
manner as possible, refused to allow myself to be 
pumped by men who were unduly inquisitive, and 
when asked whether I intended to escape again 
or not, usually told the questioner that I felt that 


242 ESCAPED ! 

I had had enough, and should settle down quietly 
to some sort of work in the camp. 

The result of my reflections was this. I suc- 
ceeded more or less in putting myself into the 
place of the German officers, who had determined 
to make the camp as much escape-proof as pos- 
sible, and after trying to think, as it were, with 
their minds, I came to the conclusion that they 
expected men to escape along certain well-estab- 
lished lines. 

Once having learned so much, I examined the 
precautions they had taken to prevent further 
escapes, with a view to discovering whether I had 
correctly interpreted the working of their minds 
or not. I found that I was not wrong in the 
conclusion at which I had arrived, and that the 
measures which had been resorted to — effective as 
they undoubtedly were — were of such a character 
that they did not make escape impossible, pro- 
vided only that one decided resolutely to depart 
from the usual methods of escape. In a word, I 
arrived at the conclusion that the scheme which 
offered the most prospect of success was a plan of 
escape on entirely original lines. I decided that I 
would do something which the German officers 
had not dreamed that an escaper might think of 


Once having made this principle my own, I 
found that it offered immense possibilities, I dis- 
covered quite a number of possible avenues of 
escape, and almost regretted that the nature of the 
enterprise demanded that I should restrict myself 
to one of them. 

My motto became, " Do the unexpected ! " 

I discovered among other things, that most of 
the precautions taken by the camp officers were 
designed to prevent escapes after dark, when most 
of the attempts were made. 

"Very good I " I said to myself. "Then it is 
quite obvious that I must escape during the day." 

Secondly, the usual practice, in the gentle art of 
escaping, was to avoid meeting the sentries. Again 
it was perfectly clear to me that if I intended to 
stick to my motto and do the unexpected, I should 
have to proceed-on quite different lines, and deliber- 
ately place myself in the way of the sentries — rub 
shoulders with them if necessary. 

From careful and cautious observation of a cer- 
tain part of the camp — for obvious reasons I cannot 
enter into details — I discovered that three sentries 
were placed in line during the day. Their sentry- 
boxes were about 150 to 200 yards apart. 

I decided that I would watch for a suitable 
moment, and then climb quickly over the second 

244 ESCAPED ! 

fence at that part of the camp and drop as quietly 
as possible between them into the road. My idea 
then, if I attracted no attention, was to walk 
brazenly past the one or the other, just as though 
I were a German civilian out for a stroll. If I felt 
sufficiently cool I might pass the time of day, in 
my best German, with one of them. From what I 
had learned of the mentality of the German soldier, 
I felt convinced that he would not expect that in 
broad delight from an escaped prisoner. It would 
be quite outside all the rules and regulations he 
had been taught in his carefully regulated life. I 
was beginning to enjoy myself beforehand— which 
was also unexpected. Every prospect pleased me, 
and only man was vile. 

Very carefully and quietly I made the necessary 
preparations. It would have been very agreeable — 
and again quite unexpected ! — if I had been able to 
take luggage with me ; but there were difficulties of 
transport in the way, and, after all, there was a 
limit to one's strict adherence to a motto. The high 
barbed-wire fences would be sufficiently difficult to 
negotiate without suit-cases ; so, regretfully, I de- 
cided to carry only what my pockets would hold. 

The day arrived. 

My overcoat pockets were crammed with all 
sorts of things, including map, compass, tobacco. 


pipe, cigarettes, a spare collar, and gloves. As my 
overcoat was rolled up into a bundle, I had to make 
sure that my precious belongings would not fall 
out, by fastening the pockets with safety-pins. 

It was a Sunday afternoon about three o'clock, 
and all was ready. I had chosen this hour because 
the first football match of the season was being 
played, and most of the prisoners would be on the 
grand stand or around the ground as spectators. 
Three of us made our way, as unobtrusively as 
possible, to the chosen spot. 

Two high barbed-wire fences would have to be 
climbed before I was clear of the camp itself — 
the first one nine feet high. There then came an 
intervening space about three or four yards wide, 
and after that the second and last fence. The 
second was a wooden board fence about seven 
feet high, surmounted by two very awkwardly- 
placed strands of barbed wire along the whole 
of its length. The barbed wire was attached to 
iron stanchions which sloped inwardly. 

" Is the coast clear ? " 

"Yes. Now's your chance." 

To protect my hands from laceration by the 
barbs, I wore a pair of old gloves, into the palms 
of which I had stuffed several folds of stout mack- 
intosh. One of my two friends gave me a leg-up, 

246 ESCAPED ! 

while my second friend mounted guard. Very few 
people saw me. 

A second later I was pivoted on the palm of 
my right hand on the apex of one of the posts, 
saw that my clothes were clear of the wire, and 
dropped lightly down on the other side of the 
fence. Vanity of vanities ! I remember hoping 
that I looked cool, and remember quite distinctly 
that I didn't feel the least bit cool. My coat 
was flung over, I darted across the intervening 
space, and crouched down behind some bushes 
whose foliage I thought was far too thin. 

As soon as I was breathing more or less regu- 
larly again, I took a grip of the top of the fence and 
pulled myself up breast-high in order to ascertain 
the position of the sentries on the other side. I 
had decided to take into account only the two on 
each side of me. The third, on my right, was a 
considerable distance away, and I trusted to his 
being too far away to see me. 

On my left the coast was clear, but on my right, 
about one hundred or a hundred and twenty yards 
away, the sentry was standing in the middle of the 
road. The sun was in my eyes and I saw the glint 
of it on the brass of his helmet, but stare as I would 
I could not see whether his back was towards me 
or not. 


By this time my arms and fingers were aching, 
and I dropped down, darted back to the first 
fence, and told my friends of my difficulty. One 
of them volunteered to come over and help me, 
but I refused to allow him to do so. 

I ran back, and just as I was about to pull myself 
up again I heard the noise of approaching footsteps 
on the other side of the fence. I crouched down 
again, listening and waiting. 

When they were three or four yards past me, 
on my right, I peeped over the fence and saw 
a German officer and two ladies going in the 
direction of Spandau. At first thought it seemed 
to be sheer madness to go on with my plans, 
but like a flash my motto came back to me, " Do 
the unexpected!" If I jumped down behind the 
officer and the ladies — they were at the moment 
less than twenty paces from me — the likelihood 
was that the sentry on my right would have his 
eyes riveted on his superior, preparing to salute. 
The chances were that he would not see me at 
all. I was assuming that the coast on my left 
was still clear. 

Having so placed my overcoat that I should be 
able to drag it over after me, I climbed up and was 
almost level with the top of the fence when I felt 
the stanchion which I held give way. In changing 

248 ESCAPED ! 

my grip it occurred to me to see if the coast were 
still clear to my left. 

Oh, damn ! I was staring straight into the eyes 
of a German sentry who was standing not more 
than twenty paces away from me ! 

I clean forgot my motto and did — the expected ; 
— dashed back to the other fence, flung over my 
coat, and followed it myself with astonishing agility. 
As soon as we were clear of the spot and lost in the 
camp I explained matters to my friends. 

About two hours later I tried again, but again 
narrowly escaped being seen by another German 
soldier inside the camp before I had an opportunity 
of reaching the second fence. 

I did not try again that Sunday. 

Within a week I tried once more with another 
man, but we were seen again, and had to disappear 
in the camp in order to escape'detection. 

It seemed as though I should never succeed. 




Although I stuck to my principle of doing the 
unexpected, I finally came to the decision to 
abandon my scheme of escaping along the lines 
of the three futile attempts described in the pre- 
ceding chapter, A most interesting plan was 
suggested to me by one of my friends, and I 
took up the idea with enthusiasm. 

On Friday, the twelfth of October 1917, I de- 
cided that I would escape the following morning, 
between half-past eight and nine. Most of my 
preparations were made, and, during the afternoon, 
I saw to other details which required attention. 

About six o'clock on Friday evening everything 
was ready for my escape. The same evening, at 
eight o'clock, I received, from a reliable quarter, 
the appalling news that certain plans on which I 
had been patiently and cautiously working for 
about eighteen months had gone smash. There 

250 ESCAPED ! 

was scarcely a vestige of them left, and I was at 
a loss to know what to do. Should I abandon 
all intention to escape, or should I, at almost 
the fifty -ninth minute of the eleventh hour, 
endeavour to improvise fresh plans and go not- 
withstanding ? 

I confided in a trustworthy friend, who was as 
much concerned as I was at the news I gave 
him. I was weary of waiting, and finally decided 
that I would stick to my resolve to escape the 
following morning, and trust to my wits and 
good fortune. 

I confess it was rather a mad thing to do, pitted 
as one is, in escaping from Germany, against a 
ruthlessly efficient organisation and a disconcert- 
ingly intelligent people ; but, as will be seen, 
although I found myself committed to a whirl of 
queer and bewidering adventure, luck was with 
me, and I won through. 

I set out, however, with a mind by no means free 
from concern regarding the ultimate issue of events. 
But, apart from my determination to adhere to my 
motto of doing the unexpected, I quite realised 
that another long term of imprisonment, which 
would undoubtedly be the penalty I should have 
to face in the event of failure, would break me 
mentally and physically, and I therefore determined 


on this occasion that I would avail myself of every 
means which circumstances placed in my power. 
Had I known beforehand how trying my adventures 
would be, I think I should have hesitated before 
embarking upon them. 

I must refrain, until the war is over, from de- 
scribing in full detail how I managed to escape 
from the camp. It is quite probable that the 
German authorities know, but I prefer to assume 
that I am leaving them in ignorance of the actual 
facts until I can relate all, without running even a 
remote risk of implicating others. 

As I have said, I had determined to play a lone 
hand, and, added to the knowledge that the odds 
were heavily against me in any case, there was this 
additional disquieting circumstance — that an Eng- 
lish accent in my pronunciation of German might 
spell failure at any stage of my enterprise. 

I was present at roll-call, on the race-course, at 
half-past seven in the morning, and after breakfast, 
said " So long ! " to the friend in whom I had con- 
fided, and, with an attempt at a cheery smile, left 
him. He was one of the two who had helped me 
on my last three futile attempts, and when I parted 
from him, he said — 

" I won't say good - bye, because it will look 
d d silly if the scheme doesn't work after all." 

. 252 ESCAPED ! 

At half-past nine, I found myself at a point 
facing the camp (and outside its confines) on the 
railway line which runs from Berlin, through 
Spandau, to Hannover and Holland. I had got 
rid of a certain disguise in a certain manner, and 
was dressed in town clothes, which were more or 
less German in cut. 

I must here explain that a straight road, very 
little frequented by any one except the German 
camp officers and guards, runs past the front of 
the camp in the direction of Spandau. Opposite 
the camp is a series of allotment gardens, a little 
wider than the road. These allotments are separ- 
ated from the railway by a wire fence, and alongside 
the wire fence runs a rough path, which is not 
supposed to be used except by employes of the 
state railway. Briefly put, facing the camp in 
three parallel lines are a road, the gardens, and 
the railway lines. 

Once on the side of the railway, my cue was 
to stroll past the sentries in broad daylight, by 
imitating, as well as I could, the whole bearing 
and ways of a Prussian railway official of the 
higher order — a sort of railway surveyor, who 
would have the right to walk along the edge of 
the railway line unchallenged by any one. I felt 
that a Prussian official of this type would, by 


nature and upbringing, be haughty and supercili- 
ous in his bearing. 

Glancing round in the direction of Spandau, I 
noticed a working-gang of British seafaring men 
from the camp, at work unloading parcels on a 
railway siding about twenty or thirty paces from 
me. They were accompanied by an armed guard, 
but I based my hopes that I should escape his 
attention upon the fact that I was doing some- 
thing entirely unexpected. It occurred to me 
that it would be well to practise on my fellow- 
countrymen, and 1 eyed these "damned English- 
men " in as haughty and supercilious a manner 
as I could. Then, turning on my heel, and 
facing Berlin, I lit a cigarette and strolled away 
from them along the railway line. 

I saw that I had five sentries to pass, who 
were separated from me only by the width of 
the vegetable gardens which lay between me and 
the road. Three of them were on point-duty to 
prevent escapes, and two others emerged with 
two working-,gangs from the main gates, just as 
I set out on my trying stroll. Each of the five, 
I believe without exception, saw me, and one or 
two of them stood still and stared intently at 
me. When I saw a sentry opposite me staring 
more than was consistent with good manners, 


I stood before him, eyed him brazenly up and 
down, while I smoked my cigarette, and varied 
my tactics by sometimes carefully examining a 
damaged part of the barbed-wire fence (as though 
I felt annoyed that the Prussian Railway Ad- 
ministration had had to suffer so much damage 
at the hands of careless people), stared up at 
the signal-box — an additional danger — or examined 
with absorbed interest a set of disused buffers on 
the side of the line. 

In this way I got past four sentries. In order 
to get past the fifth, who stood at the "Tea 
House " end of the camp, it was necessary to 
get through a wire fence on to the road, pass 
through a railway arch, and walk away from him 
for a distance of a hundred yards, before I was 
lost to view. 

The man was evidently suspicious of me, for 
as soon as I arrived at the fence which separated 
me from the road, I found that he had moved 
into the middle of the road, and was standing 
watching me intently, at a distance of less than 
twenty paces from me, his loaded rifle slung 
over his shoulder. He seemed to be debating in 
his mind whether he should challenge me or not, 
and I was wondering what sort of " dressing 
down " I ought to give him in the event of his 


challenging me, in order to leave him with the 
impression that I was a pukha railway surveyor 
who objected very strongly to being hindered in 
the carrying out of his duties. 

I decided, first of all, to stare him out of coun- 
tenance, which was rather an ordeal ; but fortun- 
ately his eyes dropped before mine, and, clumsily 
lifting the strands of wire, I got through the fence 
pretty much in the way in which I thought a 
German railway surveyor would. I then turned 
my back on him, adjusted my coat-collar, lit an- 
other cigarette, and, careful not to appear to be 
hurrying, walked through the railway arch, along 
the road which ran, at right angles, into the 
Spandauer Chaussee. After I had gone about a 
hundred yards I turned to the left, and was 
immediately out of sight of him. I began to 
feel rather pleased with my motto. 

There was no tram-car in sight, and I set off 
in the direction of Berlin, walking as fast as my 
feet could carry me, in order to put as much 
distance as possible between the hated camp 
and myself. 

The road was lined with trees, and seeing an 
officer approaching on the left - hand side, I 
crossed over to the right - hand side before he 
saw me, and, taking advantage of a slight wind 

256 ESCAPED ! 

that was blowing, I put up my left hand, osten- 
sibly for the purpose of holding on my hat, but 
actually for the purpose of concealing my face 
from him. When he came level with me, I 
recognised in him the camp censor. He passed, 
and I hurried on. A tram-car was approaching 
me, going from Berlin to Spandau, and I crossed 
to the other side of the road. I thought that in 
it I recognised two of the camp officers. Again, 
when I saw the tram approaching, I crossed over 
to the other side of the road. 

When I had walked about half an hour, I saw 
that a tram-car was overtaking me, and I waited 
for it at a stopping -place. I jumped on, and 
fortunately remained standing— as one is allowed 
to do on German trams — on the conductor's 
platform. I say "fortunately," for I had not 
been more than a few seconds on the platform 
when I noticed, half-way inside, sitting facing me, 
an Englishman from the camp named Jones, who 
was reading the Berliner Tageblatt. I knew that 
Jones had the privilege of going into Berlin on 
stated days for the purpose of making purchases 
for the camp canteen, and my first impulse was 
to go up to him and quietly have a good laugh 
over the manner in which I had got past the 
camp guards. Then I thought — 


"No; he is certain to be accompanied by a 
sentry from the camp." 

Jones had not seen me, and, glancing round 
the wooden framework of the door, I saw, sitting 
opposite to him on the other side of the gang- 
way, one of the German soldiers who belonged 
to the camp, in helmet and full uniform. My 
cue then became to remain unseen if possible, 
and as Jones was so engrossed in his Berliner 
Tageblatt, I was able, with the help of the 
wooden framework of the door, to stand in such 
a position that he would not see me. I remem- 
bered that I was smoking an English cigarette, 
and glanced round to see if any one had noticed 
its peculiar aroma, which is so different from that 
of German cigarettes. Relieved to find that it 
had apparently attracted no attention, I flung 
the cigarette into the street. 

It became necessary to do a little careful cal- 
culation. I assumed that Jones and the soldier 
would take the tram to a certain tube station, the 
Wilhelms Platz. I also wanted to take a tube from 
the Wilhelms Platz into the centre of the city, but 
I had already had more of their company than I 
thought was wise, and decided so to arrange 
matters that I should be certain of taking the 
train after theirs. I inquired of the conductress 


258 ESCAPED ! 

concerning the whereabouts of the Wilhelms Platz, 
which I had never visited before, and dropped 
from the tram about three hundred yards away 
from it. 

In order to kill time and give the two an oppor- 
tunity of leaving the tube station before me, I 
went into a shop to buy cigarettes. The woman 
seemed to stare at me rather suspiciously, but she 
allowed me to go, and I took no further notice of 
the incident. I then strolled in a leisurely fashion 
to the tube station, took my ticket, and found the 
train waiting. I walked quite unsuspectingly to 
the smoking compartment, and just as I was about 
to enter, found myself again running into Jones 
and the soldier. Turning back just in time, I 
entered another compartment. 




" Back once more on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail, 
— The trail that is always new." 

— Kipling. 

When, the night before my escape from the 
camp, I found that all my carefully-laid plans had 
gone smash, it was a crushing blow to have to 
face. I felt like a general who had dreamed for 
months of a brilliant victory, drilled his armies 
to the highest pitch of perfection, and, just as he 
imagined himself on the very eve of the realisation 
of his ambitions, found his armies surrounded and 
decimated before they had had an opportunity of 
striking a blow. 

The friend in whorrt I had confided, however, 
introduced me to another man in camp who was 
able to give me an address at which I might 
stay in Berlin. This address, he assured me, 
was absolutely safe, and I should be able to stay 

25o ESCAPED ! 

there as long as I liked. But if I find myself 
mixed up in the next Armageddon in a similar 
manner, I shall at least know how not to act 
upon the well-meant advice of a friend. It was 
on the strength of his recommendation that I 
decided to adhere to my resolve to escape from 
camp on the Saturday morning, and when I took 
the tube from the Wilhehns Platz to a certain other 
part of Berlin, I did so with a view to calling at 
this address, and remaining there in concealment 
until I had sufficient time to improvise fresh plans. 
I had no great difficulty in finding the house in 
question when I left the tube station, but I came 
out of it ten minutes later in a state of the most 
abject despair. I had not reached the corner of 
the street, however, before I found myself hum- 
ming, half consciously and half unconsciously, 
** Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag, and 
smile, smile, smile!" I had heard this delightful 
song sung in a Ruhleben Camp revtie two nights 
before my escape, and throughout the four weeks 
and three days which I spent at large in Germany, 
I found myself involuntarily whistling it in all 
sorts of queer places. My troubles were plentiful, 
and I doubt very much whether an old kit-bag 
would have held them. Still, the song cheered 
me tremendously. 


The address which my well-meaning friend had 
given me was perfectly useless, and I was fortunate 
in getting out of the house without meeting the 
police. I found myself, within an hour of my 
escape from camp, without any prospect whatso- 
ever of a roof to my head for that night or any 
of the succeeding nights which I was bound to 
spend in Germany before I succeeded in crossing 
the frontier into Holland. 

As I walked along the street I pulled myself 
together, realising the immense importance of 
appearing in the eyes of passers-by as little like 
an escaped prisoner as possible. I then reasoned 
out matters in this wise: — 

" It is now eleven o'clock in the morning. At 
half-past one, at the latest, my escape from camp 
will have been discovered. It may have been 
discovered already, and my pursuers may be hot 
on the scent at this very moment. I will set to 
work, however, on the assumption that my escape 
has not been noticed, and that it will not be dis- 
covered until half-past one. That leaves me with 
a narrow margin of time. I will make immediate 
use of this opportunity to call at a certain place 
in another part of the city, where I expect the 
Berlin police will be looking for me at two o'clock 
in the afternoon at the latest. When there, I shall 

262 ESCAPED ! 

be able to learn in a few moments whether the 
news that I received last night is correct or not. 
When I know definitely that not a vestige of my 
plans is left, I shall be able to cut myself adrift 
from the past, and start with a clear mind on plans 
for the immediate future. If things are not as 
bad as I have assumed, all the better, and I will 
make the fullest possible use of those vestiges of 
my plans which remain intact." 

There was not much time to be lost ; so I darted 
into a tube station, took a ticket for another part 
of Berlin, and was soon well on my way. I got 
to the place I sought — partly by tube, partly by 
cab, and finally on foot, leaving the cab in a 
crowded street about three hundred yards from 
the place at which I intended to call. On arrival 
there, I gave the person whom I sought to under- 
stand that I was out from the camp on leave, and, 
by carefully questioning, elicited information which 
confirmed my worst fears. 

I felt very despondent. Luck seemed to be dead 
against me, and I began to debate in my own mind 
whether it were wiser to go ahead and trust to my 
wits and good fortune, with the odds so heavily 
against me, or return to the camp and accept 
my punishment, before I became too deeply im- 
plicated in a score of unforeseen troubles which, 


on recapture, would only result in making my 
punishment all the more harsh. 

There are moments when one is led to question 
whether it is advisable, after all, to undertake an 
escape alone. One feels an almost overwhelming 
longing for companionship — not necessarily for 
some one to talk, or to talk to, but for one who 
is there, sharing the same troubles and cherishing 
the same hopes. A lone hand, however, is, I am 
inclined to think, the best of all. The strain is 
heavier, and seldom relaxes until one has reached 
the goal; but it has this overwhelming advantage 
— that the lone man plays his own game, needs 
to consult no one, and, when he finds himself in 
a tight corner, can come to decisions rapidly and 
act upon them at once. In an emergency there 
is no time for debate. The course of action decided 
upon may be right or wrong, but it must be immedi- 
ate. There is no time for a consideration of con- 
flicting views, for balancing pros and cons — the cons 
usually have it ! The lone man is "Generalissimo." 

While I was in this place talking to this person, 
and wondering what on earth I could do next, a 
man came into another room and stared hard at me 
through the open door. The person to whom I 
was speaking went to him, and the two talked in 
undertones for some time. 

264 ESCAPED ! 

More than once I have had occasion to be 
grateful, in escaping, for conclusions at which I 
have arrived — not by any process of reasoning, 
but by instinct; and on this occasion the con- 
viction flashed through my mind that the man 
who had entered the other room and had stared 
at me so intently was a detective. 

I felt that the game was up. I suspected every 
one. As they talked in low voices, I strained my 
ears to the utmost to catch what they were say- 
ing, but I could not understand a single word. 
This strengthened my suspicions. Presently the 
person came back to me, asked me to sit down, 
and then returned to the man who had entered 
and continued the conversation in undertones. 
Again I could understand nothing. After staring 
at me again, the visitor left the place, as I thought, 
to wait for me in the street. 

" Who was that man ? " I asked, as noncha- 
lantly as I could. 

" Oh, only a detective." 

I forced a smile as I said — 

'* Whom is he seeking ? Not me, surely ? " 

" Oh, no ! of course not you." 

And then the person told me the purpose of 
the detective's visit. 

It was clear that I had had a very narrow escape, 


as this was one of the very places in which I 
expected the detectives to seek me, less than two 
hours later. 

" You have not escaped, have you ? " 

Again I forced a laugh as I said — 

" No, indeed not. I am out on leave, as I said 

Then, glancing at my watch, I pretended to be 
horrified at the time. 

" Good heavens ! I must be going. I have 
squared my soldier to wait for me at such and 
such place, and I shall be late if I do not leave 
immediately. Good-bye." 

I went out, wondering what on earth I should 
say by way of a last attempt at bluff if I met the 
detective at the door. 

On arrival in the street, I found that he was 
not there ; but the street was fairly crowded, and 
I thought it best to assume that he was some- 
where among the people waiting to watch my 

"All right," I said to myself; " I will see, at any 
rate, that I get a run for my money, and give you 
one as well." 

All thoughts of returning to the camp had 
vanished of their own accord. Fortune was 
harrying me at every turn, and my blood was up. 

266 ESCAPED ! 

I turned down the first quiet street which I 
could find, and, choosing only those streets which 
were little frequented by people, I zigzagged until 
I had quite lost my bearings. As I turned round 
one corner, I glanced back along the quiet street, 
through which I had just passed, in order to make 
sure that no one answering the description of the 
detective had followed me. This was an easy 
matter, seeing that I always chose streets which 
were not crowded with people. When I felt 
fairly certain that I had thrown him off the scent, 
if he were actually following me, I decided to make 
matters doubly certain by dropping down into a 
tube station and taking train to another part of 
the city. 

I asked my way to a certain tube station of 
an old man whom I met, and discovered that I 
had completely lost my bearings. In order to get 
to this tube station, I had to go along the whole 
length of the prison in which I had been incarcer- 
ated for over two years, and also along the whole 
length of the Chief Police Station in Berlin. 
Luckily, I saw no warders, and arrived at the tube 
station in safety. There, without loss of time, 
I took a train to the West End of Berlin, and got 
out at the Zoological Gardens Station. 

I was still at large, but the precious freedom 


for which I had struggled so long and so per- 
sistently seemed no nearer than before. 

By this time I was hungry, and went into the 
Wilhelms Hallen Restaurant, which I had visited on 
a former escape, having previously purchased a 
smart imitation-leather attach6-case, into which I 
transferred the odd articles I had brought with me 
from the camp, and with which my pockets were 
overloaded. Throughout the remainder of my stay 
in Berlin, I carried this attach6-case wherever I 
went, walking about with the air of a twenty-fifth 
rate commercial traveller. 

A major, resplendent in his parade uniform, 
sat at the next table to me, but I took no notice 
of him, and ordered an expensive vegetable meal 
which quite failed to satisfy my hunger, but 
served, nevertheless, to stave off its more acute 
pangs. Afterwards I visited a number of caf6s 
and walked along the Kurfiirstendamm and the 
Tauentzienstrasse — the Pall Mall and Regent Street 
of Berlin — and did my utmost to ascertain the 
whereabouts of a certain address which had been 
given to me by a Russian Pole in prison. Two 
addresses which I had obtained in this way I had 
written down on cigarette papers and concealed 
on my person, with a view to using them in 
some such emergency. 

268 ESCAPED ! 

It appeared, however, that this particular ad- 
dress was in one of the most unsavoury slums in 
Berlin. All the cab-drivers whom I approached 
refused point-blank to drive me there — mainly, I 
suppose, on account of the distance. I spoke to 
one jehu, and asked him to drive me there. He 
looked me up and down, and then, jerking his 
thumb over his shoulder at his horse, which was 
simply a bag of skin and bones, said in his funny 
Berlin dialect — 

"Wot, mit diesem Hund ? Def glauV ich nit.'^ 
(What! with this tyke? Not likely!) 

There was a great shortage of fodder, and I do 
not remember to have seen one decently fed horse, 
either in Berlin or in any of the other German 
towns through which I passed. 

The contrast between London and Berlin in 
time of war is most marked. While there are few 
indications in London, at the present day, that 
England is involved in war, apart from the pres- 
ence of an unusual number of men in khaki and 
an all-round rise in prices, in Berlin it is impos- 
sible to escape from the atmosphere of war. 
There is much less traffic in the streets than in 
times of peace. Apart from army automobiles, 
practically no motor-cars are to be seen in the 
streets, and the very few which one meets are, on 


account of the shortage of rubber, furnished with 
noisy wooden tyres, which are fitted with steel 
cushion springs between the outer and the inner 
rim. No bicycles may be used except for business 
purposes, and the few that are allowed have a type 
of tyre similar to the one described. By paying 
through the nose, and producing the necessary 
coupons, it is still possible to obtain a meal in 
hotels and restaurants ; but I usually found that 
I had to have a meal in each of at least two res- 
taurants to satisfy my hunger. The low - class 
night cafes which used to be characteristic of a 
certain seamy side of Berlin life are still to be 
found, but the better-class cafes, such as the Palais 
de Danse, Maxim's, and the Fledermaus, have been 
closed by the police. 

There is a marked absence in the streets of able- 
bodied men of military age in civilian clothes, and 
many of the women and children look pinched and 
hungry. I noticed the effects of the shortage of 
food more particularly in the case of little children. 
Tea, cocoa, coffee, and chocolate were unprocur- 
able. The coffee supplied in the most sumptuous 
Berlin caf6s is a concoction brewed from roasted 
acorns, barley in the husk, or corn, and it is sup- 
plied without sugar or saccharine. The hand of 
war lies heavy on the German people, and wlier- 

270 ESCAPED ! 

ever I went I heard no sentiments so frequently 
uttered or so strongly expressed as an utter loath- 
ing of war and a fervent desire for peace. 

About three o'clock in the afternoon, after many 
futile attempts to find the address given to me by 
the Russian Pole, I began to think again that 
there was something wrong with my luck, and I 
rashly resolved to put matters immediately to the 
test. I walked along the Kurfiirstendamm in search 
of the most sumptuous cafe there. I found one 
without a name, and entered, to find that it had 
been called, in times of peace, ** Das englische Cafe.'* 
Sitting down in an easy -chair, I lit my last 
English "Waverley" cigarette, and decided that 
I would startle the waiter. He came up. 

" What will you take, sir ? " 

" Bringen Sie mir bitte ein Whisky and Soda." 

He stared at me, with a puzzled expression on 
his face, and said quietly — 

**We haven't got that, sir." 

*' Haven't you ? " 

" No, sir." 

I then decided that I would ask for something 
French, and told him to bring me a Hennessy's 

" I think we have a little of that, sir," he replied, 
and presently brought me a small glass of Three 


Star brandy, and left me. I sat there for three- 
quarters of an hour, sipping my brandy and smok- 
ing my English cigarette to the end. Neither the 
aroma of the English cigarette nor the strange 
thing I had ordered seemed to arouse the waiter's 

When I left the cafe I felt justified in coming 
to the conclusion that luck was with me after 
all — that my star was not as malignant a one as 
I had feared it must be. 

I then set about with more determination than 
I had previously shown to find the address which 
I sought, and, with the help of a chauffeur, who 
gave me partial instructions, I managed to find the 
place in the slums of Alt Moabit, after a wearisome 
journey by tram and on foot. I was not altogether 
sorry when I found the door of the house banged 
in my face and locked, before I had had an oppor- 
tunity of explaining the purpose of my visit. I 
left to wander a little longer in the streets of that 
part of Berlin, in the dark and rain, and then, 
with the future as black before me as ever, I 
took a tram to the Potsdamer Platz in the centre 
of the city. It was a Saturday night, and there 
was a great crowd of people. 

I needed an opportunity to collect my thoughts, 
and to decide definitely upon some course of action 

272 ESCAPED ! 

before it was too late. It was quite out of the 
question for me to go to a hotel, for I was not 
furnished with papers, nor had I any luggage, 
and I had not sufficient confidence in the quality 
of my German to risk long conversations with 
any one — at any rate, not until I had become a 
little more experienced in the art. 

It occurred to me to visit a cafe and cinema 
theatre. In the cafe I sat among German soldiers 
and officers for about an hour, examining time- 
tables, and wondering whether I ought to en- 
deavour to escape from Berlin before midnight. 
It was essential, however, before I did so, that 
I should have a more or less clear idea of the 
lines on which I intended to carry my escape 
through, and this was not a problem which could 
be settled in a few minutes. 

Thinking that I might have the best oppor- 
tunity of collecting my thoughts in a cinema 
theatre, where the darkness, to a certain extent, 
would shield me from too critical observation, I 
went to the best cinema theatre I could find, 
and took one of the best seats. I had not been 
there three minutes before I discovered that the 
film on the screen was a detective film, in which 
the particular Sherlock Holmes in question was 
getting the best of it all the time! Now, I had 


had enough of detectives for one day; they were 
beginning to get on my nerves, and, leaving the 
film -star to track down his luckless victim, I 
got up and walked out of the theatre into the 
drizzling rain. 

People who knew Berlin well had warned me to 
steer clear of the Unter den Linden, Friedrkhstrasse, 
Leipzigerstrasse, the Potsdamer Platz, Tauentzien- 
strasse, and the Kurfiirstcndamm ; but, by some 
strange cussedness, I found myself, during the 
three days I spent in Berlin, wandering most of 
the time along those very streets. If I took a 
quiet side street in order to get out of one of 
them, the quiet side street invariably led me 
into another of the main streets. 





"Smile not, reader, too carelessly facile! Frown not, reader, too 
unseasonably austere. Little call was there here either for smiles or 
frowns. . . . These unhappy women, to me, were simply sisters in 
calamity ; and sisters amongst whom, in as large measure as amongst 
any other equal number of persons commanding more of the world's 
respect, were to be found humanity, disinterested generosity, courage 
that would not falter in defence of the helpless, and fidelity that would 
have scorned to take bribes fox betraying." — De Quincey, Confes- 
sions of an Opium-Eater. 

By this time I had come to my last card. It 
was one which I wished to avoid playing if I 
could possibly do so, but everything else had 
failed me. 

It was impossible for me to sleep out. Not 
only was the weather cold and wet, but there 
was the more important consideration that I 
had by this time decided, that I would not en- 
deavour, as one usually does on such an enter- 
prise, to keep out of sight as much as possible. 
I would try and disarm suspicion by deliberately 


placing myself in the way of people, and would 
try to do everything which the average German, 
on whom no suspicion rested, might be expected 
to do. This meant that I could not go about 
like a vagabond. A clean collar, clean shirt, a 
shave» and, at any rate, the remains of a crease 
in my trousers, were quite as essential as cool 
nerves, and it was therefore necessary that I 
should find some place in which I could spend 
the remaining nights of my stay in Berlin with 
a certain amount of safety. I therefore set out 
in search of my last address, which was a brothel 
in one of the lower parts of Berlin. 

This address, too, I had obtained during my 
long sojourn in prison, and had treasured it up 
in my memory for some such emergency. It 
took me fully an hour to find the exact neigh- 
bourhood in which the place was supposed to 
be situated, but when I came to make close in- 
quiries, I discovered that the number given me 
did not exist, and I did not dare to make 
chance inquiries at what might turn out to be 
quite respectable houses. In my despair, I saw 
the gaily - lighted windows of a low -class caf6 
on the opposite side of the road, and, without a 
moment's hesitation, walked across and entered. 

It was a fairly large cafe, chiefly frequented by 

276 ESCAPED ! 

unfortunates, dissipated -looking men, and a few 
soldiers. I took a seat at a table near the door. 
Near me, at the next table, was a girl of about 
twenty to twenty-two years of age, whose smile 
drew my attention. This caused me to regard 
her with more care. I was feeling lonely, and 
it seemed years since I had had a smile from 
any one. Her features had nothing that was 
vicious in them. She was rather a pretty girl, 
with big, blue, melancholy eyes, and, among 
the loose women who were there, seemed to 
me to be quite a thing apart. At my invitation, 
she came to my table and drank coifee with me. 

We talked, and I had not spoken many sen- 
tences before she said to me — 

** You are a foreigner, are you not ? " 

I smiled and said — 

"No, I am a German, but prior to the out- 
break of war I spent many years in America, 
hence the foreign accent which is noticeable 
when I speak German. I came over from 
America shortly before the outbreak of war, 
volunteered for the army when war was de- 
clared, but was rejected as being physically unfit 
for military service." 

"Oh! that's it," she said. ** I thought you 
spoke with a foreign accent." 


Whilst we were talking, I noticed a noisy 
group of soldiers on a raised dais to my right, 
all of whom were more or less tipsy. They were 
drinking Sekt (German champagne), and one of 
them, more tipsy than the rest, was smashing 
champagne -glasses by flinging them on to the 
floor as fast as the waiter brought fresh ones. 
He then began to stroll about the caf6, and, 
feeling that a row was approaching, I thought it 
wise to disappear before I became involved in it. 

I paid the waiter, and my new-found friend and 
I went out into the dark streets. 

Few things in literature have impressed me so 
much and affected me so deeply as De Quincey's 
story of Ann and Oxford Street — stony-hearted 
stepmother — in his ' Confessions of an Opium- 
Eater.' My situation that night was perhaps more 
desperate than that of De Quincey when he tramped 
Oxford Street, friendless and penniless, and met 
that angelic street - girl, who tended him like a 
mother and loved him like a sister. But I was 
older than De Quincey, and the troubles which 
threatened to overwhelm me had come of my 
deliberate seeking, so that the advantages from 
that point of view, at any rate, were heavier on my 
side. Like De Quincey, I never learned more of 
my benefactress than her Christian name, and, like 

278 ESCAPED ! 

De Quincey, however assiduously I may search for 
her as a free man, to tell her of my gratitude for all 
that she did for me, I may search and search and 
never find her. I shall refer to her from this point 
on as "Ann." 

Within a quarter of an hour of first meeting her, 
when we were away from the cafe and alone to- 
gether, I looked at her carefully, and came to the 
decision that I would confide in her. 

"If Ann is to deserve my confidence," I said to 
myself, "then she deserves my whole confidence, 
and I will tell her everything about myself, leaving 
her with the option of informing the police, or help- 
ing me in the one or two directions where assistance 
has become absolutely essential." 

'^Frdulein," I said, " when I told you in the cafe 
that I was a German and not a foreigner, I told you 
a lie." 

Her eyes lit up with interest, and I went on — 

" I was unable to tell you anything else there, 
but I am a foreigner. I am an Englishman. I 
escaped from Ruhleben Camp near Spandau this 
morning, and escaped with the intention of crossing 
over into Holland." 

"While I watched her carefully, the conviction 
seized me that I had taken the right course, and 
that my confidence was not misplaced. I never, 


from that moment on, regretted having told her, 
and I never once had occasion to falter in the con- 
fidence which I placed in her. Never again in my 
life will I allow to pass unchallenged and unre- 
buked any sweeping condemnation of the women of 
her class. Magdalen she may have been, but, for 
me, she broke her alabaster box of ointment, and 
discovered depths of tenderness and unselfishness 
which then and since touched me more deeply 
than it is in my power to describe. In my 
memory Ann ranks among the good women of 
the world. 

Through Ann, I managed to get an introduction 
to a gentleman who was a burglar, and something 
worse. I met him on the Sunday night in a certain 
cafe in a low quarter of the town. Before we met 
him, Ann said to me — 

" I hope you won't mind my having told him that 
you are a burglar friend of mine ? " 

I laughed. 

" Not a bit. I shouldn't mind in the least, 
Ann, if you had told him that I was a murderer." 

We found the gentleman sitting at a table alone, 
and I introduced myself to him by clicking my 
heels together, bowing, and murmuring the name 
which I had chosen as the most convenient to 


We were both a little embarrassed at first, but 
after I had persuaded him that I was one of the 
same kidney, he warmed up to me. 

" Look here, Herr ," I said, " I have com- 
mitted a certain crime, but " — here I feigned em- 
barrassment and winked — " if you don't mind, I 
would rather not go into details." 

" Oh, that doesn't matter. One is always willing 
to help a pal. One never knows when he may need 
it himself." 

" That's very fine on your part," I said. *' Now, 
look here! the police are hot on my heels, and I 
must get clear of Berlin as soon as possible. I 
want to go to a certain town," — I gave the name 
of another town, of course, — "and, in order to be 
able to get past any of the detectives who may 
question me in the train, it is absolutely essential 
that I should have suitable legitimation papers, 
and those that I have at present are, of course, 
quite unsuitable for my purpose." 

He nodded, and I continued — 

"What sort of papers have you got? If they 
are what I am seeking, we might come to some 
arrangement with each other." 

He produced his, and eventually I bought them, 
giving him my word that I would post them to 
him, anonymously, within three days, after which 


time they would be of no further use to me. Ex- 
cept for the fact that they were for a younger man, 
they were exactly what I was seeking. The burg- 
lar had been several times rejected by the Army 
Medical Board as being unfit for military service, 
and had therefore every right to wear civilian 

While we were sitting in the cafe, my friend, 
the burglar, looked at me and said — 

*' You are a Swede, are you not ? " 

I looked at him in amazement. 

"Yes," I said; "but how on earth did you dis- 
cover that ? " 

" Oh," he answered, "I could tell at once from 
your Swedish accent." 

"That's wonderful," I said. "You must be 
gifted in that way." 

This rather pleased him, and he answered with 
becoming modesty — 

"Yes, I am rather good at that sort of thing. 
I can always tell a man's nationality from the way 
he speaks." 

More compliments from me. 

Ann grew mischievous, and with a twinkle in her 
eye, which the burglar happily failed to notice, said 
to him quite seriously — 

" Oh yes. An Englishman, for example, would 

282 ESCAPED ! 

speak with an entirely different accent, wouldn't 

'* Oh, quite different," answered the burglar. 
When everything had been arranged between us, 
Ann and the burglar began to discuss a certain 
criminal of their acquaintance who had formerly 
been one of their set. They described how this 
man had murdered his mistress and appeared in 
their midst the same evening as though nothing 
had happened. They seemed to be greatly im- 
pressed by the murderer's sangfroid, and I felt it 
the proper thing to do to express a sort of horrified 
admiration of his coolness. I am afraid I gave 
the burglar the impression that such amazing non- 
chalance as the murderer revealed would be quite 
beyond my modest powers. 

We went to another house to complete the 
deal, and when he had left I set about to learn 
by heart all details concerning the new personality 
I had assumed. The burglar had had the bad taste 
to choose a father whose name was unconscionably 
difficult to pronounce, and I found that he had 
also been born in some out-of-the-way place which 
was equally difficult to pronounce. 

My funds were running low, and I was therefore 
compelled to decide to leave Berlin earlier than I 
should otherwise have done. 


Ann used to meet me for meals during the day, 
and during the three days I remained in Berlin, I 
wandered about the city, visiting different caf^s, 
picture theatres, restaurants, and hotels, frequently 
sitting in crowded restaurants among German 
officers and soldiers, doing my best all the time 
to look as little like an escaped prisoner as pos- 
sible. The future was still very uncertain, but my 
plans were maturing. 

All this time, Ann did wonders for me. 

"Now look here," she would say, "what art 
thou going to do about thy next meal ? Thou wilt 
have hunger if thou hast no meat to eat. Here 
are meat coupons, a potato coupon, and a bread 
coupon. With these thou canst go to such and 
such a restaurant and get a fairly good lunch. I 
will meet thee there. No, no, take them. I don't 
need them at all." 

The day before I left Berlin she said to me — 

" I have been trying to get three emergency 
bread coupons, but I have been unable to do so. 
With these coupons, however, thou canst go to 
such and such a shop and buy a quarter of a loaf. 
At a certain other shop there is a peculiar kind of 
sausage for sale, without coupons. It is rather 
expensive, but thou hadst better buy it th;in go 
hungry, for the railway journey is a long one.' 

284 ESCAPED ! 

Make sandwiches for thyself with the bread and 
sausage, and take them with thee in thy attache- 

When I insisted on her taking some of my 
money, she looked worried and said — 

" No, thou wilt have need of it before thou 
reachest Holland." 

I had decided that I would spend the Monday 

night in a fifth -rate hotel, close to the 

Bahnhof, and that night Ann came along with 
me, and waited for me in a caf6 close by, until I 
had booked my room. I was rather afraid of 
complications which might arise through regis- 
tration, as I did not want to use my new name 
in Berlin, unless I were compelled to do so. Most 
of the hotels were full, but eventually I found one 
where a room was free, and when I told the land- 
lady that I should have to leave in order to catch 
a very early train, she said, to my great relief — 

**0h, well, if you are only staying those few 
hours, it is hardly worth while to worry about 

"Just as you hke," I said nonchalantly. "It's 
no trouble, of course." 

" Oh, I don't think we'll bother." 

" Right you are," I said. " Good-night." 

I rejoined Ann later at the cafe. We walked 


about the dark streets for a time among the crowds 
of soldiers and civilians, and then came the moment 
of parting. Ann looked sadly at me, as the tram 
which she was to take came to a stop. 

" Good-bye, Ann," I said, with a lump in my 
throat, and tried to put into words the deep grati- 
tude I felt for all that she had done for me. 

" Good-bye," she said quietly. " I hope that all 
will go well with thee. Do not forget to write to 
me under the name we have agreed upon when 
thou arrivest safely at a certain town." 

I promised, and kept my word two days later. 
That is the last that I saw of Ann. As I walked 
back to the inn, I felt inexpressibly sad and lonely. 




I LEFT the inn at an unearthly hour the following 
morning, after a short but sound sleep, and went 
across to the station, where I bought my ticket 
for a certain town in another part of Germany, 
without difficulty. The waiting-room was literally 
crammed with soldiers going to and from a certain 
front. There were hundreds of them in full field 
kit, lying on benches in the corridors, and on 
tables, chairs, and the floor in the big waiting- 
room. I stood at the bar among them, and drank 
coffee, before I left to pass through the barrier to 
the train. 

For reasons of economy, I had taken a third- 
class ticket; but I noticed, to my dismay, that 
the third-class compartments were rapidly filling 
up with soldiers, and, fearing that they might be 
too talkative for an English escaped prisoner, I 
decided that I would change into a second-class 


compartment. I informed the conductress of the 
train, but it was too late to go back to the booking- 
office and change my ticket. She said that that 
could be arranged on the way. 

There were one or two other people in the 
compartment, but I took no notice of them, and 
settled down to read a German novel that I had 
bought, which, curiously enough, had the title, 
*' Ins neue Land'' (Into the new country!). It 
was only later in the day that the significance 
of the title struck me. 

I had taken a slow train in order to avoid 
control by detectives, and, owing to an accident 
on the line, we were delayed so long that I was 
in the train, without leaving it, for over nineteen 
hours. Six hours of the journey I spent sitting 
opposite a German officer, who was apparently 
returning to the front from leave. For a long 
time he was the only other occupant of the 
compartment, and I had to maintain a very surly 
demeanour, lest he should belong to the very 
unusual type of German officer who is willing to 
enter into conversation with a chance travelling 
companion. When we stopped for a long time 
between stations, owing to the accident to which 
I have referred, I frequently leaned out of the 
window and chatted with the girl conductress, 


and deplored, along with her, the fact that the 
delay was very hard on the soldiers in the train 
who were returning home to spend a short leave 
with their families. 

I got into very great difficulties through losing 
my railway ticket. My conductresses changed 
about three times. I was going to a station which 
we will call Y, and at X, the station before Y, late 
that night, I was 'Still without my ticket, and left 
the compartment in order to make inquiries of the 
conductress as to whether she had obtained a 
transfer ticket for me or not. To my horror, I 
discovered that the conductress who had taken my 
third-class ticket was no longer there, and the one 
who had taken her place, after a moment's con- 
sideration, said — 

** Oh, that is very awkward. I know now what 
has happened. The other girl left at Z and took 
your ticket along with her. When you get to Y, 
you had better go to the chief station-master and 
explain the whole matter to him and see what can 
be done. It is very awkward indeed." 

This quite unexpected turn which events had 
taken worried me a great deal. I knew that my 
German would not stand the test of long explana- 
tions before so astute a railway official as the chief 
station-master of Y, and I returned to my com- 


partincnt with a feeling of certainty that I should 
never get through. 

It may be that at times such as these the mind 
is stabbed awake, as it were, and one seizes hold 
of possibilities which, under ordinary circumstances, 
would not occur to one. A railway guard was 
standing opposite to my compartment, and, judg- 
ing from the paraphernalia he was carrying, I 
came to the conclusion that he was going off duty. 
He had, too, a devil-may-care air which rather 
pleased me. 

"That is my man," I said to myself. 

Calling him to me, I explained the whole situ- 
ation in my best German, and slipping a tip into 
his hand, said — 

"There's another for you of the same amount if 
you can only fix up this matter without loss of time 
when we arrive at Y." 

He winked at me and said — 

" I will see to that all right, sir." 

I pressed him to tell me how he intended to do 
it, and emphasised the fact that I had had a long 
journey, was thoroughly tired, and wanted to get 
to my hotel. 

"Above all," I said, "I want to have no fuss 
with officials. I am too weary for that." 

I promised to look out for him at Y, and, on 

2go ESCAPED ! 

arrival there, soon found him in the crowd which 
was leaving the train, and passed through the sub- 
way with him. I was still very nervous lest he 
should drag me before some railway official, but 
evidently this was not his plan. He went to one 
booking-office after another, and whenever he saw 
a man clerk there, he turned away. At the last 
booking-office he found a girl clerk, who looked 
very tired, and he said to her with a good deal of 
bounce and bluster — 

" Look here ! This gentleman, through no fault 
of his own, has lost his ticket. He has travelled 
third-class from such and such a place to Y " 
(mentioning a place about eight miles away from 
Y, whereas I had come close upon three hundred 
and fifty miles and had travelled second-class). The 
man's audacity quite took my breath away. ** Give 
him a third-class ticket from such and such a place 
to Y." 

The girl did so. I paid 8d. instead of about 
twice as many shillings, gave the guard his prom- 
ised tip, winked at him, and passed safely through 
the barrier into the dark street. 




During the next four weeks I wandered about a 
number of different towns, carefully gleaning as 
much information as possible concerning condi- 
tions along the German-Dutch frontier, with a 
view to ascertaining the most suitable point at 
which to cross. This time, I was determined to 
make no mistakes and to do nothing in haste. 

Most of my nights I spent in little inns in various 
places, and lived under the guise of seven different 
nationalities. If the person to whom I happened 
to be speaking showed extraordinary powers of 
discernment and guessed that I was a Dane, a 
Dutchman, or a Swede, I thought it only polite to 
admit that I was. In my eagerness to be all things 
to all men (and women), I find that I was, at 
different times and on different occasions, an 
Englishman, a German, a German-American, a 

292 ESCAPED ! 

Swede, a Dane, a Dutchman, and a Dane from 
Schleswig-Holstein. When I found myself in con- 
versation with a man or woman for the second or 
third time, it was often puzzling to remember 
exactly which nation I did belong to. In addition 
to my many nationalities, I had four different 
names during the four weeks and three days which 
I spent at large in Germany. 

I passed through some strange vicissitudes, hav- 
ing beforehand resolved to take on anything that 
came my way. In one inn I soon saw that the 
people were very short-handed, and in order to 
ingratiate myself with them, did all sorts of things, 
from washing-up in the kitchen — a hateful business 
— to making three barrelfuls of Sauerkraut. In 
another room where I stayed for a few days the 
landlord came to me one day and asked me if 
I would help him to kill a pig. 

•* It's illegal, you know," he said. We shall be 
heavily fined and the carcase will be confiscated if 
the pohce hear of it." 

"Why, of course I will," I answered. 

The pig's doom was sealed. We got up very 
early one morning, waited until the policeman 
had passed on his beat, and then went with our 
murderous tools into the pig-sty behind the inn. 
I felt like a murderer. 


"But the old pig will make a terrible row," I 
said nervously. 

"Oh, nonsense! Wait and see!" replied the 
landlord, unconsciously plagiarising an eminent 
English statesman. 

I carried a huge frying-pan, my function, like 
that of the fish in " The Death of Cock Robin," 
being to catch the blood. 

Never again shall I be able to look a pig straight 
in the face. The heartrending cries of that poor 
beast we so foully murdered haunt me still. It 
seemed as though all the police in the neighbour- 
hood would be roused by its screams. 

" How undignified ! " I thought to myself, " to 
be caught, escaping from Germany, in the act of 
killing a pig ! " 

Like a certain illustrious monarch, the pig was 
an " unconscionable time a-dying," but she did 
die, and after we had roped the heavy carcase to 
a ladder, we carried it away upstairs to an attic. 
My reward came later in the shape of a number 
of pork chops, and while I ate them I reflected, to 
my huge delight, on the envy I should arouse in 
the heart of the average German if he could but 
see me eating them. 

Once I sat in a cafd, among a crowd of ofiicers 
and soldiers, at the same table with a man who 

294 ESCAPED ! 

insisted on telling me, in much too loud a voice, 
how he had deserted from the German army. 

On another occasion I was talking to a Belgian 
who worked in some factory in the town. 

" What are you doing here, Herr ? " he 


" Oh 1 I've come from Berlin to look for a job." 

" Ah, yes. May I ask what sort of job ? " 

" Oh, certainly. A clerkship, but I want to get 
a good berth, and intend to have a good look round 
before 1 settle down." 

He smoked a few of my cigarettes, and then 
joined a German soldier at another table. With- 
out any apparent provocation, the soldier began 
to curse the English with all the epithets at his 

" Yes, a vile people ! a dirty crowd 1 And poor 
Belgium ! How sorry I feel for Belgium ! And 
all the fault of the English." 

" Yes," said the renegade Belgian, ** I can stand 
a Frenchman, a Russian, or even a German, but — 
an Englishman — never 1 " 

He little knew. 

I very frequently had to sit tight and listen to 
similar abuse of my own country. Sometimes it 
was amusing, but usually it was exasperating in 
the extreme. Occasionally I heard praise of our 


institutions and of the full measure of liberty we 
Englishmen enjoy. 

The densest, most appalling ignorance prevailed 
among the common people concerning the motives 
which had led us to declare war. Jealousy of Ger- 
many and of her success as a commercial nation 
seemed to be regarded as the main if not the sole 
motive underlying our action. A sinister though 
skilful press propaganda had attained the ends at 
which it had aimed. 

Deep down, however, in the hearts of many 
whom I met lurked a black hatred of militarism 
in all its forms. One man said to me — 

" If only the German workman had a bit of 
backbone, the Prussian Government would not 
dare to treat us as they do." 

The German-Austrian victories in Italy were in 
full swing, but they seemed to arouse no enthu- 
siasm. Vague rumours of a separate peace with 
Russia were greeted with more jubilation, but only 
as the possible forerunner of a general peace. 

Every one I met seemed to be hungry, except 
those who had Vcrbindungen (connections), and 
were able to pay high prices for illicitly procured 
supplies. Potatoes were the staple diet, and even 
these were sometimes unobtainable in sufficiently 
large quantities. Fat of any kind was almost un- 

296 ESCAPED ! 

procurable, and I saw people pay with eagerness 
fifteen shillings a pound for dripping of inferior 

I had an almost unrivalled opportunity of judg- 
ing, and I was very reluctantly forced to the 
conclusion that there is very, very slight prospect 
of internal trouble of such a nature as will seriously 
impede the Supreme Command in the conduct of 
the war. After the war — perhaps. During the 
war — exceedingly improbable. Goaded as the 
masses are, they have no longer left in their hearts 
the spirit which makes for a successful revolution. 
And in these times, when a couple of machine- 
guns can hold a whole crowd at bay, what use are 
old men, women, and children ? They are all that 
are left. The rest are in the tight grip of the 
mailed fist and can do nothing. 

Seditious propaganda is an impossibility in the 
army, and a perilous business at home among the 
civilian populace. The German people, when I 
was at large in the country, were hungry ; they 
were suffering ; and I am disposed to the belief 
that the effects of the privations endured by the 
civilian populace will be evident to a marked 
degree in coming generations. But the people 
are not dying by hundreds in the streets ; and it 
must be borne in mind that, docile as the German 


people may be, and blind as they undoubtedly are in 
their obedience to authority, they are also a people 
of wonderful mettle, steeled to bear hardships with 
amazing patience, and still doped with the doctrine 
that they are fighting in defence of their hearths 
and homes. We stand to lose, and not to gain, 
by underestimating the fighting qualities of our 
opponents, and among these qualities, capacity for 
patient endurance among the civilian populace is 
an essential which ranks not far below the valour 
of armies. 

We must cram down the throats of the Kaiser 
and the pompous fools behind him the conviction 
that their mad ambitions have no prospect of 
realisation. We must smash the idol which the 
masses of the German people still regard with awe 
and adoration. *" 

On several occasions I was sitting in the bar- 
room of an inn, when a policeman came in with 
what appeared to be a summons sheet in his hand. 
Sometimes he stared at me, while he questioned 
the landlord concerning one or other of his guests, 
and I used to listen with painful anxiety either for 
my real name or one of the other three which I had 
assumed. Usually, however, I strolled out of the 
room as soon as I could conveniently do so, and, 
once having closed the door behind me, darted 


into a lavatory, and locked myself in there for 
twenty minutes, emerging only when I felt rea- 
sonably safe in assuming that the policeman had 

Many of the strange experiences through which 
I passed, I must, of necessity, refrain from nar- 




" When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like 
them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our 
tongue with singing." — Psalm cxxvi. 

Towards the end of the four weeks, I succeeded 
in making the acquaintance of exactly the kind 
of man I had been seeking. I cannot tell more 
of this man than the bare fact that he had done a 
certain amount of smuggling across the Dutch 
frontier into Germany, and professed to know 
every inch of the land on a certain part of the 
frontier. Had he known my real nationality, I 
think there is little doubt he would have handed 
me over to the police authorities at once. The 
story I told him, when we first met, was the fol- 
lowing : — 

" Yes, I am a Dane, but by an unfortunate 
accident of birth I was born on the wrong side of 
the Danish frontier in Schlcswig-Holstein, and am 

300 ESCAPED ! 

thus a German by nationality, and liable to serve in 
the German army. I have kept out of it so far, 
but the likelihood is that I shall be roped in very 
soon, and I am determined not to serve, because at 
heart I am thoroughly Danish. My idea is — if 
possible, with your help — to get over into Holland, 
and from Holland, some way or other, make my 
way to Copenhagen. My sweetheart lives there, 
and my idea is to join her in Copenhagen, and live 
happily there until the war is over." 

He shook his head, and regarded me with a 
puzzled look. 

" Now, look here ! You are a German, are you 
not ? " 

" Of course I am not," I replied. " That is, not 
at heart. According to my papers, I am a German 
— in a way — but as far as my real sentiments and 
sympathies are concerned, I am a Dane. Besides, 
you can tell that from my Danish accent." 

He seemed to be more convinced by this time 
that my story was true, and we fell to discussing 
ways and means. 

His plan was to leave the train at a certain 
station not far from the frontier ; but, as I 
pointed out to him, in order to do this, it was 
absolutely essential that we should both be pro- 
vided with faultless papers, owing to the fact 


that we should be travelling most of the time 
through the so-called Sperrgehiet (forbidden zone), 
and not only should we have to fear control by 
detectives on the way, but we should also be 
subjected to very close scrutiny when we passed 
through the barrier at the station in question. 
So much I had learned before I met him, and 
he bore out, from his own experience, all that I 

I finally succeeded in inducing him to procure 
certain papers for me, and, in the meantime, I 
went to a shop, and had a dozen photographs 
taken. When I received the papers, I tore off 
the photograph of the real owner, and succeeded, 
tolerably well, in replacing my own, and imitating 
the military stamp on each of its four corners. 
They were not the papers actually required for 
that purpose, but I trusted to a certain some- 
thing on them to carry me through. I was again 
acting in strict accordance with my motto, and 
was doing the unexpected. 

The night decided upon for our departure arrived. 
The strain to which I had been subjected during 
those four weeks and three days had been unusually 
heavy, and I was glad that the period of waiting 
had come to an end, and that I had the prospect of 
action before me. 

302 ESCAPED ! 

We took train together at a certain station that 
night, and travelled to our objective, not far from 
the frontier. The train was crowded, but at dif- 
ferent stations on the way one person after another 
left the compartment, until we were finally alone 
together. The smuggler was a very cool fellow, 
but perhaps on account of the papers I carried, 
and the fact that he had not done this particular 
kind of thing before, he was evidently more than a 
little nervous. I said to myself — 

"By Jove! my friend, you would be nervous if 
you knew whom you had along with you." 

He had taught me a certain volley of abuse 
which I had to hurl at the soldiers on the station, 
if they seemed inclined to question the validity of 
my papers, and wished to arrest me. 

"My God and Father," I had to say, with as 
much bounce, bluster, and indignation as I 
c(^ld muster, ** I have travelled at least fifty 
times along this line with these papers, and 
never had any trouble, and now you stop me ! 
It is too idiotic for words!" 

I kept rehearsing all this in German as the 
train rolled nearer and nearer the station at 
which we should have to leave the train, and 
he was not at all satisfied with my pro- 


" It's that confounded Danish accent of yours," 
he said, in despair. 

••Oh, that will be all right," I replied, and I 
would try again, only to be corrected again and 

" Good heavens," he said, " I hope the train 
stops before we enter the station. In that event, 
we will open the carriage door and make a dash 
in the dark across the lines into the town." 

•* I am afraid that is unwise," I said, "because, 
if the station is near Holland, it is almost certain 
there will be goods trains there from Holland 
guarded by soldiers, and if they see any one 
running across the railway lines, they will be 
certain to take pot-shots at us. Now, look here ! 
don't worry about me. I will give you half a 
dbzen yards' start at the station. You are certain 
to be able to get through with your papers, and 
if I get caught, well, I am caught, and there is 
an end of it. I will swear that I do not know 
you from Adam. Whatever happens, I will 
guarantee that you will not be implicated in any 
way whatsoever." 

This seemed to satisfy him a little, but he was 
still ill at case. 

'• But, what if those papers are found on 
you ? " 

304 ESCAPED ! 

"Oh," I replied, "that is easily explained. I 
will swear that I was sitting in a caf6 in X. I 
saw a man take out those papers and show them 
to a friend. I wanted papers myself, and on see- 
ing him slip them into his overcoat pocket, which 
was hanging close to mine, I found an opportunity 
of stealing them, tore off the man's photograph, 
put my own in its place, forged the stamp, and 
— there you are ! " 

The scheme seemed to satisfy him, and by the 
time this had been decided upon the train pulled 
up at the station. I allowed him to get two or 
three yards ahead of me among the dozen or so 
people who were going in the direction of the 
barrier from the train, and saw him pass safely 

With my heart beating uncomfortably fast, I 
walked up to the barrier, with my legitimation 
papers in one hand and my ticket in the other. 
There were two soldiers, armed with rifles and 
fixed bayonets, and I had to pass between the 
two. As I handed my ticket to the girl ticket- 
collector, one of the soldiers made a grab at 
my papers, and scrutinised them very care- 
fully. I seemed to pass through an eternity of 
torment. Then, thank God ! he handed them 
back to me, and I passed through into the dark 


street with a lighter heart than I had known for 

There I was met by the smuggler, who took 
me by the arm, and, pressing it to him, said — 

"That was splendidly done. Man, you will 
get a fine welcome in Holland as a German 

"Really?" I said, "that is fine"; and we 
passed on through the quiet, almost pitch-dark 

We stopped for a little refreshment at an inn 
in the town, and then set out in the drizzling 
rain for the frontier itself. We had about two 
hours' walking before us, before we came to the 
actual sentry lines, and I have simply a confused 
recollection of inky darkness, rustling leaves under 
foot, rain, patches of forest, field-paths, and open 
heath. The last stretch was across open country, 
divided into fields by hedges, ditches, and barbed 
wire. As we approached one hedge, I whispered 
to my companion that I heard some one moving 
on the other side. We flung ourselves flat in the 
wet grass, and listened. Presently we got up, 
peered round the hedge, and noticed that the 
noise we thought was made by a sentry came 
from a number of cows that were lying in the 
field. We went on. 


3o6 ESCAPED ! 

It was close upon midnight, on the 13th of 
November 1917, when we came level with the 
last line of sentries. They were posted along 
a canal, which, I believe, although I am not 
certain, was the actual frontier. 

As Holland lay before me, and as all that re- 
mained to be done depended on my own initiative 
and resource, there was no point in taking my 
companion farther. I agreed to crouch in the 
darkness on the banks of the canal until he had 
got back into safety. 

As soon as I could no longer hear or see him, 
I dropped into the slime and water, and waded, 
as cautiously as I could, into the middle. I 
expected to have to swim, but the water only 
took me up to my arm-pits. Keeping my eyes 
fixed on a group of pollard willows on the oppo- 
site bank of the canal, I made for them, going 
slowly, and making as little noise as possible. 
When I got to the other bank, I rose out of the 
canal inch by inch, so that the water dripping 
from my clothes should not make so loud a 
noise as would attract the attention of any sentry 
who might be near me in the darkness. I 
learned later that many men had been shot, 
trying to cross not far from there. 

Once on the opposite bank, I stood close to 


this clump of trees until some of the water had 
dripped from me, and then, feeling as though I 
were clothed in a suit of lead, ran, as fast as my 
legs could carr>' me, across an open field. 

Was this Holland? or was I still in Germany? 
I decided, in any event, to proceed for a time 
with the utmost caution. 

There were no stars by means of which I 
might have found my right direction, so, flinging 
myself flat on the wet ground, I took out my 
compass with a view to striking a direction due 
north, which would have taken me deeper and 
deeper into Holland. To my dismay, I found 
that my compass had become flooded. My inten- 
tion had been to go through the canal with the 
compass in my mouth, but I had been too eager 
to reach the Promised Land, and, in my eager- 
ness, had forgotten this very necessary precaution. 
In my despair, I talked to it like an animate 
being. I held it still, I tapped it, I shook it, but 
in vain. The needle would not move. 

There were no stars visible. There was no 
moon. No village lights were there ahead to 
help me. Already, I was shivering with cold in 
my soaking clothes. Obviously, the only thing 
to do was to keep on the move. lUit where ? 
In which direction ? Anywhere. Anywhere. But 

3o8 ESCAPED ! 

God forbid that I should walk bhndly back into 
Germany. Anywhere but there. 

I began to walk, as I thought, in a direction at 
right angles to the canal I had crossed. Some- 
times I came to an impenetrable hedge, or a patch 
of bog, or a broad ditch, and, in skirting it, com- 
pletely lost my sense of direction. Three times 
I found myself back on the banks of the canal, 
on the other side of which the German sentries 
were posted, and realised, as I peered into the 
water, that I had walked in a rough semicircle 
back to the point from which I had started. 

Good God ! was I after all doomed to failure 
so near the goal ? Were three years of persistent 
effort to escape about to end in my walking blindly 
back into Germany, after I had trod the soil of 
the country which had so long been the object of 
my yearning ? 

I was strangely calm. The heaviest strain is 
felt in waiting to do things, not in doing them. 

How long I walked I know not, but I suddenly 
found myself in front of a farmhouse, which 
loomed up before me out of the almost tangible 
darkness. At last I had found a habitation. Its 
architecture seemed at any rate un - German. 
Would the people turn out to be German or 
Dutch ? I decided to take the risk, and, in the 

FREEDOM— AT LAS r ! 309 

event of finding myself face to face with a German 
soldier, resolved to fight — or run — as seemed best 
at the moment. 

Bang ! Bang ! Bang ! The noise of my knock- 
ing reverberated through the whole house. 

At last, I heard heavy footsteps on the brick 
floor, the key turned in the lock, and a burly 
farmer greeted me, thank God ! in a language I 
did not understand. 

The man was a thousand times too stolid. I 
wanted to embrace him, shake him, dance round 
and round on the kitchen floor with him. 

I told him in a sort of pidgin-German-English 
that I was an Englishman who had just escaped 
from Germany. He took me inside the house, 
which I lighted with a flash-lamp that I carried. 

The living - room was beautifully clean with 
its red-brick floor, and through an open door I 
saw a bed covered with a counterpane of many 
colours, from which a head peeped out, clad in a 
white night-cap. It was the farmer's wife. They 
spoke to each other in Dutch, but I could not 

I took from my wet trousers pocket all the 
money that I possessed, laid it on the table, and 
begged him to take mc to the nearest village, 
and hand me over to the police or the military 

310 ESCAPED ! 

authorities. He seemed reluctant to do so, and 
oifered me the use of his barn for the night ; but 
I was already shivering with cold, and decided 
that I would not trust any one who lived so 
near the German frontier. I felt that I should 
not be safe until I was in the custody either of 
Dutch soldiers or Dutch policemen. Then the 
old woman said something to her husband, and, 
feeling that it had reference to me, I asked him 
to tell me what she had said. In broken German 
he replied — 

** My wife tells me to show you the path to the 
nearest village, if you will leave us your flash- 

I pressed him to take it, and, shortly afterwards, 
we left the farmhouse for the path which led to 
the village. There he bade me good - night. I 
swung along with a lighter step and a lighter heart 
than I had known for three and a half years. The 
cup of my happiness was running over. At last ! 
My only pause was to drop on one knee on the 
gravel path and whisper three words of gratitude 
for my deliverance. 

In the centre of the village I met two Dutch 
soldiers, gave myself up to them, and was led by 
them into some wooden barracks near by. There 
I spent two nights and two days. 


• •••••• 

Liberty is wondrously sweet when one has 
fought for it. Looking back upon those three 
years of suffering and hardship from the corner 
of an English fireside, I feel that I would not have 
had things otherwise for worlds. Strange is the 
alchemy of youth which can so quickly transmute 
pain and hardship into a pleasant memory. 




Santa Barbara 




A A 000 294 379 3